The Montreal Canadiens started their season 0-2 as a casual attitude defensively and on special teams led to an embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.
While the Habs started brightly last night against Toronto, the team didn’t register a shot on goal until five minutes into the first period as they tried to simply settle into their first back-to-back of the season.
Sabres forward Kyle Okposo turned back the hands of time and started the goal barrage 6:40 into the game after a drive into the zone by Dylan Cozens pulled the Habs defensive coverage out of position. Okposo received the puck at the top of the right circle and beat a screened Samuel Montembeault glove side to give Buffalo the early lead.
The Canadiens got caught running around in their own zone again and Buffalo doubled their advantage before the period ended. Defenceman Alexander Romanov lost his stick and Brett Kulak couldn’t tie up Zemgus Girgensons in front. The Latvian tipped home a Colin Miller point shot to double the Sabres’ advantage.
Head coach Dominique Ducharme shuffled up his forward lines to start the second and his team responded in spurts. The power play looked better than against the Leafs but not by much as they failed to score on overlapping early penalties by the Sabres. However defenceman Chris Wideman drew the Canadiens back within one. He ghosted past the defence to the front of the net where Joel Armia found him with a lovely seam pass to deposit the puck into an open net.
But three straight penalties by the Habs, including a 5-on-3, surrendered momentum back to Buffalo and they eventually made the visitors pay. After Josh Anderson failed to get the puck in deep in the neutral zone, things fell apart on the penalty kill. Some quick movement by the Sabres on the power play led to a lack of communication between Jake Evans and David Savard. That half second of space was all Jacob Olofsson needed to snipe past Montembeault to restore Buffalo’s two-goal advantage 3-1.
The comedy of errors defensively put the game to bed before the second was over. Chiarot inexplicably tried to block a relatively harmless Girgensons’ shot directed at his goal off the rush. The puck fell to an untouched Anders Bjork who fired the puck past Montembeault stick side to lift the sparse crowd in KeyBank Center to their feet thanks to the 4-1 lead.
The Montreal Canadiens were essentially playing for respectability in the third period and even that was a struggle. Tyler Toffoli started things off well on the power play by driving to the net within the first minute to try and disrupt Craig Anderson’s relatively quiet night. But the Habs could not build their game into offensive zone time and were repeatedly caught on odd-man rushes going the other way.
Sabres forward Tage Thompson put a bow on the night of work by the home team, once again on the power play. With Chiarot in the box again, this time for tripping, an Olofsson one-timer bounced into the path of Thompson on the left side. Montembeault tracked the puck late and the big forward got the puck up in a hurry to make it 5-1.
With the game out of hand, the Canadiens half-heartedly tried to make the scoreline slightly less embarrassing. But they failed to convince themselves or anyone else that goals were coming and played like they wanted to get out of upstate New York as quickly as possible.
Next up for the Montreal Canadiens is their home opener Saturday night against the New York Rangers trying to get their first win of the season.