About Last Night: The Canadiens have a penalty-killing problem

Montreal returned home from a season-long road trip and promptly dropped a 6-1 decision to the Sabres at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

Article content

The Montreal Canadiens returned home from their season-long road trip with a thud in a 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre on Thursday.

Longtime Hab killer Jeff Skinner led the way for the Sabres with a goal and three assists. Joel Armia scored the lone goal for the Canadiens.

Article content

Armia’s goal came short-handed, but the Habs also allowed two power-play goals in the early going. They entered the game with the league’s second-worst penalty killing, ahead of only the Ottawa Senators.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Jake Allen allowed five goals on 37 shots in the loss.

It was a scoreless first, largely thanks to D.D.O.’s own Devon Levi coming up large on Jesse Ylönen in front. Levi made 32 saves for the win in front of a hometown crowd.

Advertisement 3

Article content

Armia thought he opened scoring for the Habs in the second, but Buffalo successfully challenged that Michael Pezzetta interfered with Levi. The goal reversal energized the Sabres, who countered with two power-play goals scored in the exact same spots. The first was by Casey Mittelstadt back door from a Skinner pass.

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

The Habs PK missed Skinner down low for the second goal of the night.

Advertisement 5

Article content

On another penalty kill, Armia got revenge for the earlier call. He was looking to give his linemates time to change, but instead found the back of the net. It’s the only goal Levi would concede on the night. The Sabres led 2-1 after 40 minutes.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Montreal unravelled in the third period, starting with Jack Quinn beating Allen top corner through multiple screens. 3-1 Sabres.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Less than two minutes later, Skinner and Tage Thompson continued to toy with the Habs defence. Skinner jumped out from behind the net and Thompson tucked it home to make it 4-1 Sabres.

Advertisement 8

Article content

Rasmus Dahlin added an empty-netter with over five minutes to play. Then Thompson made it a blowout with his 12th of the season.

Advertisement 9

Article content

Mostly negative defensive numbers for the Canadiens last night. The Brendan Gallagher-Jake Evans-Ylönen line was -2 on the night, otherwise mostly -1’s across the board.

Advertisement 10

Article content

After beating a superior team on the road in Dallas on Tuesday, the Habs faltered against a team below them in the standings on home ice. Skinner remains a one-man wrecking crew against the Canadiens: he now has 29 points in 16 games against Montreal as a Sabre.

Some of the Liveblog commenters saw this loss more as a close game for 40 minutes where the Habs melted down in the third, as opposed to an outright thrashing. But the near league-worst penalty kill is a major sore spot at the moment. On this night, it seemed more like a strategy issue than a personnel one, since they got hoodwinked by the same play two times in a row.

A prominent PKer, Christian Dvorak, is now gone for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, so they’ll have to find a way to improve their short-handed play with even less centre depth.

For a third straight game, the Habs by necessity dressed 11 forwards with seven defencemen. Johnathan Kovacevic didn’t contribute much in only 8:07 of ice time. Will the Habs add a 12th forward before facing the Rangers on Saturday?

3. “It always happens to us after a long road trip, we tend to come up flat the first home game back ..we are not taking the body in our end .. they just walk right in ..” -Alex Polidoro

2. “The forwards look gassed. Maybe playing 11 forwards 7 D has worn thin.” -Mick Chow

1. “That’s the game folks, sorry to say. We just don’t have it tonight. We left it in Dallas.” -Bob Taylor https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/14767170/

Article content