Greetings from high atop HSBC Arena as we get set for the gold-medal game between Canada and Russ .... Oops. Sorry. Sure feels that way though. You should have seen all the red in this place as the Montreal Canadiens took the ice for warmups for tonight's game against the Sabres. You should see all the red spread about the 100 level. Some devoted fans traveling on a Tuesday. I know lots of season ticket-holders funded their 2011-12 accounts by getting rid of tonight's tickets too. There are plenty of tickets in the 300 corners so this should be a pretty split crowd.
I hate reading the Habs' game notes. They're bilingual as expected but they mix French and English together and it's a real pain. How about putting all the French on a few pages and all the English on other pages? Anyway, the AP's John Wawrow, proud Canadian that he is, waded through the notes and found the English version of this nugget: Tonight is Montreal's 3,000th road game all time. Its record is 1251-1255-493.
So now that we have our bizarre stat of the night, can we please get started? Oh, that's right. It's a Versus night (don't turn on MSG). And the puck won't drop until 7:40. They sure don't care about newspaper deadlines, do they?
Sabres starters: Vanek-Hecht-Pominville-Leopold-Montador. Goal: Miller
(scratches remain Rivet and Butler).
Habs starters: Eller-Plekanec-Cammalleri-Gill-Subban. Goal: Price
THE VERDICT: Sabres win it 2-1 as Pominville scores at 1:09 on a beautiful Vanek feed. Lindy Ruff says Stafford has a groin injury. Status unknown.
9:30 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
17:40 left: Yannick Weber goes for slashing for Montreal.
15:40 left: One shot on that power play. Not nearly up to snuff.
12:55 left: Price with a nice save on Gerbe in the circle. Shots are 4-2 for Buffalo.
10:20 left: Price robs Gaustad on feed for Kaleta and then robs Niedermayer, of all people, on the rebound. Almost the power of the properly spelled name. Check that -- Gill blocked the Niedermayer shot.
7:00 left: A note of apology from AP's Wawrow for the earlier joke at Pacioretty's expense. That goes for me as well. No one in the building anticipated that being as serious as it turned out to be. Just looked like an accidental plunking he'd be over in a few seconds. The game is still tied. Shots are 5-3 for Buffalo.
5:23 left: Hecht stopped again on the doorstep.
5:00 left: Miller ROBS Plekanec all alone in front.
3:27 left: Miller makes another save and Gionta drills him in the head as the Sabres converge. Gerbe of all people ends up jumping Scott Gomez and that has the crowd roaring. Excellent response by the Sabres there. Sabres could have used Gerbe three years ago when Gomez killed Buffalo's season by taking out miller.
3;12 left: Hecht stopped again. Credit him for all these chances or damn him for not converting? You make the call.
1:19 left: Great work by Myers and Morrisonn in the corner to dominate the Montreal forwards.
42.4 left: Gomez for a vicious and stupid high-stick on Gerbe. Sabres avoid further stuff to keep the power play.
On to OT: It's 1-1. Shots were 11-11 and it's 36-30 for Buffalo. Still 1:18 left on the PP.
Of note: We'll have to take attendance here. Cammalleri, Pacioretty and Halpern (didn't see what happened to him) all played less than two minutes in the first period and let's see if Subban comes back. Apparently, French network RDS said Pacioretty was actually struck in the upper arm by the Wisniewski shot.
Subban is back and skating his injury off in front of the Habs goal. No sign of the three forwards. A LOT of room on that bench. Update: The Montreal radio network has reported Cammalleri is out for the game. No status report on Pacioretty or Halpern.
17:57 left: Sabres bulletin -- Stafford will not return wtih a lower body injury. Versus is reporting Pacioretty left the building on a stretch and is heading to the hospital. Jeez.
15:30 left: Shots are 2-0 for Buffalo in the period. Halpern emerges and comes out to the Montreal bench.
14:00 left: I'm told TSN had a shot of Pacioretty being wheeled out on the stretcher hooked up to an IV.
13:26 left: Miller stops Lars Eller on a partial break after a bad giveaway at the Habs line by Hecht.
12:52 left: Gionta rips a slapper off the post from the left circle on a 2-on-1. Had Miller toasted.
12:04 left: Sabres doing little to take advantage of the Habs' lack of depth. Shots are 5-2 for Montreal in the period.
10:59 left: Former Sabres farmhand Mathieu Darche for interference.
10:00 left: Halfway home. Stafford, remember, missed Friday's practice with undisclosed ailments but did play Saturday on Long Island. Only lasted two shifts tonight.
9:32 left: Big chance for Buffalo. Two-men advantage for 34 seconds as Gill goes for slashing down Montador.
9:19 left: Connolly slapshot to Price's midsection. No screen. Too easy.
8:39 left: The Sabres finally tie it. Connolly's slapper is blocked and Vanek and Ennis chop away at it before Ennis finally bloops it in over Price. Game tied, 1-1. That's Ennis' 11th. Buffalo PP has scored in seven of the last eight games.
7:37 left: TSN is reporting Cammalleri has a separated shoulder. That would be a huge loss for the Habs. Multi weeks for sure.
6:42 left: Hecht killing the Sabres. Fans on an open backhand in front of Price and then passes behind Pominville on a 2-on-1 a few seconds later. This is the No. 1 center. Great.
3:25 left: Woefully shorthanded Habs won every battle on the last shift against Myers-Morrisonn. Forgot to mention there's been a switch in defense pairs (too many medical updates). Sekera is with Weber tonight. Sabres have to be tougher than that.
End-2nd: It's 1-1 through two. Shots are 25-19 for Buffalo (16-12 for the Sabres). Buffalo has to win the final 20 minutes. Just has to.
7:40 p.m.: They can't get the lights turned on after the anthems. Hey, I'M ON A TIGHT DEADLINE. Great.
7:41 p.m.: They get the lights on and the puck is dropped. Thanks for nothing, Versus.
16:19 left: Weber goes for cross-checking on a push of Cammalleri into the boards. The Habs forward slides in and clearly injures his wrist. Cammalleri barked at Weber on his way off the ice. The hit came a couple seconds after Miller robbed him.
15:45 left: Pacioretty down after taking a point shot from Wisniewski in the midsection and thus taking his voice range up an octave. Wawrow with this pearl: "Is that lower body?"
14:41 left: Habs convert on the PP as Roman Hamrlik's shot from the point is tipped home by David Desharnais, who was alone to Miller's left as Morrisonn lost him. Habs lead, 1-0.
13:32 left: Kaleta running around causing trouble but he goes for boarding against Jeff Halpern. Wisniewski, who was flattened by Kaleta a few seconds earlier, just threw a punch and didn't get away with it. He goes for crosschecking (should have been roughing). Stupid. Ruined his team's power play. Halpern nearly made it 2-0 a few seconds ago as Weber's pass hit the referee's skate and bounced to him right in front.
13:00 left: It's 4-on-4 and Price stops Vanek breaking in on the right wing with old friend Jaro Spacek in hot pursuit. Folks, you have no idea how much we miss Spacho interviews in the Buffalo locker room. And we all do pretty good impressions of him too.
12:12 left: Price robs Hecht on the doorstep after a great backhand pass by Pominville sent him in alone.
10:46 left: Gerbe goes for goaltender interference. Kaleta could have got one too for a late punch that was overlooked. Lucky.
8:24 left: Sabres kill that dubious penalty on Gerbe, who appeared to be scrambling for the puck in the crease but also shoved Price with a free hand. Shots are 6-4 for Buffalo.
5:40 left: The lines are what we expected with Vanek-Hecht-Pominville, Ennis-Connolly-Stafford and Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta. Kaleta's return pushes McCormick down to the fourth line with Niedermayer and Grier and basically kills ice time. I don't like that.
4:36 left: Tough night for Habs forwards. Brian Gionta just got drilled from close range on a Hal Gill shoot-in. He makes it to the bench and seems OK.
2:40 left: Price stops Hecht from in front again after Vanek steals Spacek's pass behind the net.
O:32 left: Subban limps off after taking a shot from Leopold in the leg and collapses in the tunnel. Looked like left foot. How many Habs will be left by the end of the game?
End-1st: Habs lead 1-0 and Sabres have a 9-7 edge in shots. Seriously now, they HAVE to win a game against a team that might be that short-handed for two periods playing two games in two nights. And this extra: Kaleta got a penalty at the horn for firing the puck late at Price. Stupid. Must be an unsportsmanlike conduct call. But how about the punch Gill threw at him in the scrum that ensued? Terrible.