The Second Half Begins

Goalie Ryan Miller was near perfect for Buffalo. (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Buffalo Sabres 3 Montreal Canadiens 1

The Buffalo Sabres came back from All-Star weekend somewhat refreshed. Only two players were busy participating in the event, Captain Jason Pominville and Luke Adam. For the first time with a healthy defense, the Sabres took on the Canadiens in Montreal for the finale of their seven-game road trip.  The Sabres played the New Jersey Devils before break and won in shootout overtime 2-1, while the Canadiens ended the Detroit Red Wings seven-game winning streak by an overwhelming score of 7-2. Sabres center Paul Gaustad and Tyler Ennis made comebacks with only Jochen Hecht still out on injury from the regular squad. Luke Adam and Marc-Andre Gragnani were healthy scratches as T.J. Brennan battles flu-like symptoms. The biggest twist for last night’s game was that not only Ennis came back, but he played center on a line with Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford.

The first period belonged to the Habs, even though they were out-shot by the Sabres 14-8, they were first to get on the board with a goal less than 5 minutes into the game from Max Pacioretty.  The Sabres ended the first period losing both on the score board and personnelwise as star player Thomas Vanek was lost to an upper body injury for the rest of the game.

In the second period momentum began to shift as Habs goalie Carey Price’s luck ran out and he let a top shelf goal into the net off the stick of Ville Leino. Leino’s goal was set up by some solid passing from Christian Ehrhoff and Gaustad, who added with the assists. Price was the only thing holding the ship together for Montreal as the team was out-shot again in that period 19-7, with the Sabres abusing the Canadiens defense.  Montreal also found themselves in some penalty trouble, but the Sabres weren’t able to convert any power play opportunities as they continue to struggle in this area.

In the final period the Sabres came out flying. Only six minutes into the third, Gaustad made his return known scoring his fifth goal of the season right in front

Leino provided a goal for Buffalo. Here he is colliding with Subban. (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

of Price on the assist from Brad Boyes. Sabres Goalie Ryan Miller was on his head as the Habs were pushing mid-to late period and laying on the pressure and he did not break.  Forward Pat Kaleta delivered the nail on the empty netter with 51 seconds left in the game assisted by Gaustad and Ehrhoff again, both guys in the action all night.

When Buffalo went to Boston on November 12th they were riding a four game win streak. 81 days later, the Sabres win two games in a row. First regulation win for the Sabres since January 13th, and they end the month of January with just 4 wins out of 12 games. The top performers of the game were Gaustad with a goal and two assists, Ehrhoff with two assists, Miller stopping 27 of 28 shots and Tyler Ennis making his presence felt on offense. Who knows what the next night will bring as the Sabres look to take on New York Rangers, who just lost against the Devils in a 4-3 shootout. The Sabres will return home to the First Niagara Center to see what kind of energy the fans can bring into this game. The Sabres still have a rough road ahead of them to make their way back into this division and possible playoff contenders. Who knows what else Head Coach Lindy Ruff might do, with Vanek out for an unknown period, he will have to shake things up some more as they try to extend this win streak.

-Special thanks to Nick Stutzman for his reporting and analysis.

Is there hope for this Sabres squad in the second half of the season? Let us know what you think via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

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