Canadiens Takeaways: Poor discipline proves costly vs. Sabres

The Canadiens fought back from being down 4-2 but Marcus Johansson ended it in overtime to get the Sabres a 5-4 win.

The Montreal Canadiens were one tough bounce off Ben Chiarot’s shinpad away from possibly coming out of their first road trip of the season with five-of-six points in the standings earned.

Instead, a goal for Marcus Johansson gave the Buffalo Sabres a 5-4 overtime win over the Canadiens on Wednesday night. He was the beneficiary of a nice pass from defenceman Colin Miller after the puck jumped off Chiarot’s leg.

Tough break, but four-out-of-six points is still a good result for this Canadiens team. Especially when you consider they came back from deficits of at least two goals in all three of their season-opening games.

This is a tenacious Montreal team, one that has proven it will fight no matter how far up against the wall they find themselves. They had seven come-from-behind wins when trailing after two periods a season ago — only the Tampa Bay Lightning (nine) and Calgary Flames (eight) had more — and they’ve picked up right where they left off in that department.

Now the Canadiens just need to find a way to hold on to a lead. They were unable to do so in the third period of their season-opener in Carolina. They relinquished early and late leads to Toronto last Saturday. And they had a 2-1 lead over Buffalo undone in the fifth minute of the second period of Wednesday’s game.

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THE BIG TAKEAWAY

Three bad penalties — two from Tomas Tatar and one from Phillip Danault — killed Montreal’s chances of winning this game.

You can debate the calls — Canadiens coach Claude Julien did after the game — but all three plays gave the officials cause to make them.

In the first period, Tatar stuck his hip out on a player who released the puck well before contact was made — and did so in the neutral zone when there was no real threat coming from the Sabres. The Canadiens were dominating the game to that point, but the penalty put Buffalo’s 6-for-10 power play to work.

The result? 1-0 for the home team.

At 2-1 Canadiens in the second, Tatar slashed Evan Rodriguez near his top hand and sent the Sabres back to the power play. Tatar’s fourth minor of the young season.

It took all of 48 seconds for Buffalo captain Jack Eichel to tie the game and push the Sabres’ power play to 8-for-13 on the season.

And then, after the Canadiens erased a 4-2 Buffalo lead in the third period with goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Chiarot, Danault took a neutral-zone slashing penalty on Sam Reinhart. Danault didn’t like the call, and neither did Julien, but the Montreal forward’s stick got into Reinhart’s legs and tripped him up with 35 seconds remaining in regulation.

Johansson’s game-winner in the second minute of overtime may have come at even strength, but it hit the back of the net before Danault had a chance to make it back to his own zone from the penalty box.

Discipline was going to be key against the Sabres on Wednesday, and Montreal’s lack thereof cost them a precious extra point in the standings.

QUICK HITS

• The Canadiens’ penalty kill was a factor in the loss, too. They had chances to clear the zone on both of Buffalo’s power play goals but they just couldn’t find a way.

• Eichel’s second goal, to put the Sabres up 3-2, was an excellent individual play. But Tatar’s fly-by in the neutral zone gave Eichel time and space to back the Canadiens up, and goaltender Keith Kinkaid gave the Sabres’ top forward enough room to shoot right through him. Danault, Chiarot and Petry were all back on the play, but no one stepped up on Eichel, who scored on what was basically a one-on-three.

• Earlier in the day, Julien was asked what former Sabre Joel Armia had to do to capitalize on all the good work he does in the offensive zone. The coach said Armia just needs to shoot more. Armia responded by scoring on his first two shots of the game.

• On Armia’s second goal, 20-year-old Nick Suzuki was credited with an assist. It was his first NHL point — a gift from Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen, who took the puck from Suzuki behind the net and handed it right to Armia out in front.

• On Armia’s first goal, Nate Thompson, who was playing in the 700th game of his NHL career, made a great play while the Canadiens were killing their second penalty of the game. The 35-year-old, who had a goal and six assists in 25 games with Montreal last season, has started off strong with two points in his first three games this year.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Canadiens welcome the 2-1-0 Detroit Red Wings to Montreal for their home-opener at the Bell Centre on Thursday.

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