MONTREAL – It was a complete and total beatdown. The Buffalo Sabres were outskated and outclassed in embarrassing fashion.
Montreal laid waste to the Sabres’ feel-good vibe Saturday, trouncing Buffalo, 6-1. From the opening minute, Montreal dominated the Sabres, who came to Quebec on a high after a stirring victory in Boston.
The winning feeling came to a crashing halt after one game. The Sabres are just 1-4-1 since opening the season with two victories.
“It’s unacceptable,” right wing Drew Stafford said. “We’re not going to win any games if we come out and get outworked like that.”
The 21,273 red-clad fans in Bell Centre gleefully mocked the visitors and cheered the home team, which played at a speed and intensity level that Buffalo could not match. The Sabres, in a 4-0 hole after 31 minutes, spent the final 29 trying to keep at least a little dignity to bring home for today’s game against Florida in First Niagara Center.
They didn’t salvage much.
“It wasn’t even close to being good enough to win a game,” captain Jason Pominville said. “It’s us not being good enough, not being ready right off the bat.”
The first period was the Sabres’ worst of the season, yet they nearly escaped in a 0-0 tie they didn’t deserve. The relentless Canadiens finally turned their dominance into a lead with eight seconds left, scoring on the power play. Montreal had a 15-1 shot edge in the opening 20 minutes.
Pominville, who took a slap shot with 9:22 left, was the only one to test goaltender Carey Price. Ryan Miller, meanwhile, had Habs in his goalie mask nearly every time he looked up.
“Sometimes you get paid for the way you’re playing, and we had to pay at the end,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “If Ryan doesn’t play the way he did in the first, this game could have really gotten out of hand. It was out of hand as it was, but it could have really gotten out of hand.”
After finally solving Miller to end the first, Montreal poured it on during the second. The Canadiens scored three times on six shots, victimizing struggling defenseman Tyler Myers each time. Including Thursday’s 7-4 win in Boston, Myers had a stretch in which he was on the ice for six of seven goals allowed by Buffalo.
“We just got way too high after a good win in Boston,” Myers said. “It’s something that we’re going to have to learn from.”
Ruff put Miller out of his misery after 40 minutes. Backup Jhonas Enroth quickly felt the pain as the Sabres continued their run for the bus. Montreal scored on a three-on-one just 1:22 into the third period.
By the time the Sabres had something to celebrate, there was no reason to enjoy it. Thomas Vanek scored on a short-handed breakaway with three minutes gone in the third to make it 5-1, but he skipped the party line. With his teammates up along the boards anticipating fist bumps, Buffalo’s leading scorer left them hanging and took a seat at the end of the bench.
“At this point you know what went wrong,” Stafford said. “It’s something as simple as work, and it’s something that we can address as a group. We have to get ready to come out flying.”
The rested Panthers haven’t played since a 6-3 win over Winnipeg on Thursday. It’s their only victory in their last six games. They were outscored, 23-4, during their five-game losing skid.
The Sabres’ top hope is that Florida feels overconfident after its convincing win. That’s what happened to Buffalo.
“Obviously,” Ruff said, “I think that we left our heads in Boston.”