Habs Goalie: Price (W)
Opposition Goalie: Lalime (L)
Habs goalscorers: Halpern, Pouliot (2)
Opposition goalscorers: Grier, Leopold
The play of significance wasn't perhaps the play of most beauty, but it made for a more beautiful evening. Early in the first period, the Sabres find the open Thomas Vanek in front of Carey Price. Like a goalscorer without a snakebite, he connects for a shot on net and then another in a flash. Price saves the first with his body and the second through determination. It's the signal to his team that he's battling for these points.
A predictable choice after his goals, but he might have made it without them. I thought Ben was full value for his 11 minutes of ice time in this game and is showing those glimpses of the player we saw in January and feared we might have lost. His first goal was masterful, picking a puck out of the air and doing what talented players do before goalies know what's hit them. His second was a good shot from an unlikely position showing his other dangerous quality. The best threat on balance.
Glad to be taking home another day's pay no doubt. While he's about it he's showing up Bulldogs dissenters and Habs peers all the while. When Darche is on he's on and this night he seemed to take what little ice time he had and make it mean something. His pass on the first and most important goal on the night was very nice indeed.
This guy is a few games away from nearly making the dome on a sympathy plea. Tonight he played a prominent role on the team. He scored the critical first goal (and made it from his effort on the earlier pressure) and killed penalties like a man possessed. ironically, he stunk at faceoffs in this contest, allegedly the talent Gauthier sought him out for.
The signature Hal Gill moment was a clearance on a Buffalo PP with Gorges and Markov in the box. He may have been part of the reason Buffalo swarmed the zone at times, yet his penalty kill prowess was largely responsible for the fact the Habs were even in this for points.
He played in the first pairing. He was key in setting up the goal. He was important as always in killing penalties. He played sound hockey as we can count on him for. Despite an undeserved penalty, he put together a nice game and join his former partner in the dome.
Carey Price - Game Puck
I recently got in an argument with a fan about the importance of timing for a goalie. About how letting in early goals is a primary evil and that big saves earlier are bigger. This game Carey Price helped my argument, I think. The 15 saves he made before the Buffalo goal were the most important saves of the game. They kept his team in it, but they also delivered a signal to those teammates that he was going to be sharp and save the usually unsaveable. He delivered the same again when Buffalo pressed at 1-1 and was then rewarded with a restful third. Carey led from the back on this occasion, his best game in weeks in my opinion.
To those who want to complain, there is fodder here. The Habs did not win pretty. There were defensive lapses (have you ever seen a goal with errors by all 6 players on the ice?) and there were lots of absentees (can Lapierre even be benched?). However, this game is exactly the kind of game all those who complain should long for. It was lost on balance of effort long before the midpoint. It was lost on quality chances, it was twice very losable after big goals from the Sabres. The Habs came back. In fine form too, with not a minute or a shot to spare. Their answers were beautiful and in the case of the second response, resounding. By the time Pouliot killed the game with his slice off the iron, the Sabres had their heads down.
And then came the icing on the cake, the Habs closed out a close game without much drama. Limiting shots, chances and high blood pressure, the game slipped into the record books as another win in upstate New York.
So don't fret about Gomez and his non-breakaway induced slump continuation. Or about the fact Gionta has infected Kostitsyn with his wrist infection. Or that Subban can't shoot at anything but a blocking shin. This was a positive night with 2 points to remember it by. The Sabres probably aren't the team we see now and so taking the points from them may well mean a lot in April too. A good win for Price and the boys.