Greetings from the latest installment of Which Buffalo Team Will Win a Home Game First, also known as tonight's Sabres-Canadiens game from HSBC Arena. The Sabres, of course, are 0-5-1 here and won't be back until Nov. 13 against the Capitals. The Bills, of course, haven't won anywhere (and I won't count Sunday's game in Toronto as a home win either). So we're still looking at April 6 -- the Sabres' 5-2 win over the Rangers -- as the last time the Sabres or Bills won a game in front of the home fans.
Yeeesh. And then these teams wonder why the fans are in a bad mood and the media is crabbing at them in press conferences. Scoreboards, people!!
The Sabres take the ice for warmups and Patrick Lalime, as expected, leads them out. Chris Butler and Mike Weber are again the healthy scratches. You should see all the empty seats here. It's a gold game and these single-game seats in the 300 level didn't sell for this one. Sections 301, 302 and 325 are virtually empty 10 minutes before faceoff.
Tomas Plekanec (flu) is a scratch for the Canadiens. They showed video of Lindy Ruff's speech last night at the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame on the HD board just before the teams came back on the ice -- including the parts of Ruff's non-guarantee guarantee. If you didn't read our discussion about that earlier today (where the heck were you?), be sure to go here to check it out.
Of note: Stafford has an upper body injury and will not return. Pouliot (two goals), Darche (two assists) and Halpern (1g, 2a) are all plus-3 for the Habs. Niedermayer/Grier plus-2 for Buffalo. Rivet/Sekera/Vanek/Roy all minus-2. Vanek has a game-high six shots.
18:32 left: Cammalleri goes for holding. Sabres are 0 for 3 on the PP with just two shots.
17:55 left: Great save by Price on an Ennis break, sparked by a great pass from Sekera.
16:30 left: PP over again. Sabres fall to 0 for 4. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Habs lead the league on the road at 96.4 percent (27 of 28).
14:04 left: Giveaway by Sekera at the Montreal line. Hooking penalty to Sekera. Habs with a chance to go for the kill right now.
12:00 left: The penalty is over. Sabres still alive.
11:28 left: Rivet off for interference. Sabres begging for trouble.
9:23 left: Lalime takes the shot to the midsection from Roman Hamrlik from the right point to help kill another penalty. Lalime has been pretty active tonight, out to the top of the crease of many shots. Too bad about Pouliot's second goal. A real downer on an otherwise decent night for the backup. Much tighter period: Shots are 4-3 for Buffalo and 31-28 for the Sabres in the game.
7:55 left: Kostitsyn stopped by Lalime on a semi-breakaway. Good play by Montador to close fast and bother the shooter.
6:30 left: Lalime stops Cammalleri on a 2-on-1 after the shifty winger goes right around Myers and breaks down the ice. The sophomore has just been The Big Easy for opponents far too often this season.
4:42 left: Attendance is announced as 18,026. Some of those empties did, in fact, fill in.
3:19 left: Niedermayer skates right by the puck -- twice! -- on the way to the bench and Gionta goes around Vanek in on Lalime but shoots wide. The Niedermayer play was simply terrible.
1:50 left: Great stop by Lalime on Pouliot on a 2-on-1 that would have been his hat trick.
1:27 left: Big boos as Sabres called for icing.
It's over: A 3-2 loss and an 0-6-1 home record. Another week before a chance at a home win (Nov. 13 vs. Washington). Crazy. Shots were 32-31 Montreal.
Of note: Stafford and Hecht, who both had perhaps their best periods of the season, had three shots on goal apiece in the first for the Sabres. So did Sekera and Vanek. Good to see a plus-1 for Myers for once. Cammalleri had four shots for the Habs. Gaustad was 3-0 on faceoffs. He was 11-0 Wednesday night, the first NHL player perfect on 10-plus chances in a game this season.
18:27 left: Price robs Ennis on the doorstop. Great feed from Grier. Hey, an astute reader points out we never reviewed the lines. No changes from the other night. Vanek-Roy-Stafford, Hecht-Connolly-Pominville, Ennis-Niedermayer-Grier, McCormick-Gaustad-Kaleta. By the way, there doesn't appear to be any booing of Connolly. Frankly, nobody's even noticed him near the puck so far.
16:33 left: Sabres power play. Kaleta mixes it up with Markov and Gorges comes in to help. They all get roughing so it's a 4-on-3 for the Sabres.
14:30 left: Gotta start declining these penalties. Sabres have the puck more when it's 5-on-5.
11:32 left: Good set of eyes from the AP's Bob Matuszak. Drew Stafford not currently on Sabres bench.
10:58 left: The Sabres jump into a 2-1 lead as Jordan Leopold jumps up on the play and bangs home a rebound as Grier was pounding away in the crease. That's Leopold's fourth of the year, as in the same number of goals as Vanek, Connolly and Stafford.
10:12 left: So much for that lead. Myers and Morrisonn get outmuscled behind the net and the Connolly line, especially No. 19 himself, sits in front watching as Benoit Pouliot jams it past Lalime. Habs tie it 2-2.
9:02 left: Stupid blooper video time. Shots are 24-15 for Sabres.
6:05 left: Great save by Lalime on Lapierre on the doorstep. No real complaints how he's played tonight. Two goals on 20 shots for the Habs.
3:57 left: Lalime with the glove snare of P.K. Subban's laser from the right point. Maybe it was going wide but still a solid snag.
2:48 left: What was I saying about Lalime? Pouliot burns him with a rocket from the left boards on the short side for his second of the night and a 3-2 Habs lead. You just have to make that save. Bad karma: Sabres have not won a game this year in which they've trailed at any point.
End-2nd: Habs lead, 3-2. Shots were 15-11 for Montreal and are 27-25 for Buffalo. Also: Gaustad limped off the ice at the buzzer with a right foot/ankle problem.
Starters: For Sabres, it's Vanek-Roy-Stafford with Sekera-Rivet on defense. It's Kostitsyn-Gomez-Gionta for Montreal with Markov-Gorges on the backline. Lalime vs. Price in goal. The smallest crowd of the year was 17,896 for the Oct. 11 Chicago game. This one will be smaller.
19:18 left: The first "Go Habs, Go" chant is met with a good boo.
15:52 left: Sabres skating pretty good so far. Pominville had two great chances in a 12-second span foiled by old friend Jaro Spacek, one with a diving pokecheck on a breakaway and the other on a block of a slapshot in the slot. Great shift from the McCormick-Gaustad-Kaleta line for Buffalo. A near-miss for the Habs as Kostitsyn blazed a slapshot just wide of the post when it appeared he had some room on the stick side on Lalime.
14:14 left: Dustin Boyd goes for holding. Let's see if the Sabres can avoid giving up a short-handed goal. They've given up three the last two games and an NHL-high four for the season.
12:10 left: No shorties against but no power play either. No shots and five turnovers. Brutal.
11:01 left: Shots are 5-1 for Buffalo after Price stops Hecht -- who still has no goals this season -- on the backhand. Habs blew a great chance a few seconds earlier when Kostitsyn fans on a 2-on-1. No real problem with the Sabres' effort so far. The power play was easily the worst two minutes of the period. That's bad news, because here it comes again after a too many men on the ice penalty to the Habs.
9:00 left: More disorganiation from the PP. Two shots (Sekera and Vanek) but still too many turnovers.
8:50 left: Price with his best stop of the period, from the doorstep on Vanek. the Habs' fans below us are chanting "Car-ey, Car-ey" As well they should. Shots are 9-1 in the Sabres best period probably since Oct. 23 at New Jersey.
6:10 left: Big cheers after Hecht and Pominville are stopped. Shots are 13-2.
6:02 left: Vanek dumped in the Habs' end with a low hit by PK Subban and Stafford challenges Subban but the linesmen get in the way. And Stafford gets the only penalty, for unsportsmanlike conduct.
3:30 left: The Habs had some chances but some active work on the PK from Morrisonn and Hecht, among others keep them scoreless. Shots are 14-7. Good note from an eagle-eye on Twitter pointing out a sign above Section 304 (was a little obstructed from my view until I moved a few feet) It says, "FANS SHOW UP. WHY DON'T YOU?" Ouch!
2:42 left: The Sabres finally get rewarded as Grier takes a super feed from Ennis, goes in alone and beats Price on the backhand to make it 1-0 on a 3-on-1 break. Just a few seconds earlier, we were stunned to watch Scott Gomez basically have a breakaway and look to pass it to Gionta. Pass went wide. That's why Gomez has one goal this year. Grier's first of the season in his 1,001st NHL game. Sabres, 1-0.
1:20 left: The Habs tie it up as Jeff Halpern takes a great pass from behind the net from Mathieu Darche, beats Roy to the spot in the slot and beats Lalime. Seventeen minutes of work for the Sabres to get a lead gone in 82 seconds. 1-1.
End-1st: Shots are 16-10 for the Sabres.