Check Randy Cunneyworth’s choice of personnel for the frantic effort that produced the tying goal:
• Tomas Plekanec, who had centred the Canadiens’ best line in Vancouver but was bumped back down to playing with the indefatigable, if minimally skilled, Ryan White and the enigmatic Rene Bourque, who finished the game with no hits or shots on goal.
• Erik Cole, who opened the scoring with his 26th of the season, matching his total a year ago in Carolina, and Max Pacioretty, who had missed most of the second period with an ankle injury.
• P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, who made quick-witted plays on the puck as the Canadiens scrambled to generate some last-minute pressure on Ryan Miller. No surprise there with P.K.: 23:18 ToI for the Canadiens best defenceman. But Markov, who played a few seconds less than the 17 minutes he logged in Vancouver, had a rough night in Buffalo. He was on for every Sabres goal and looked … well, like a guy who missed most of two seasons – on Ennis’s first one.
• David Desharnais, who was hurt in Edmonton, played five minutes against the Oilers, missed the Vancouver game and bounced back in Buffalo, setting up Cole for hihis Cole and scoring the one that sent the game into OT and secured the Canadiens a fifth point – of a possible eight – on this long, gruelling and – let’s be candid – meaningless road trip.
Those were the Canadiens’ on-ice jersey numbers when the red-light flashed on at 19:55: 14, 76, 79, 72, 67 and 51.
And those are the names that will carry this team going forward.
It’s a tribute to their dedication that the aforementioned players had that much left in the tank at the end of a cross-continental road trip.
And credit for 33 stops and no chance on the Buffalo goals. Were the goaltender anything less than stellar, no way this game goes to OT.
I’ll be honest: Having travelled back from Vancouver on the red-eye, I dozed off about three times during the game. So this will be an incomplete summary of what went down.
But on the occasions when my eyes were open, they were watching a dominant performance by the home team. The Sabres needed two points to keep their playoff hopes on track, and they took it to the tired Canadiens pretty good for most of the evening.
In order to protect Markov and manage his minutes, Cunneyworth dressed seven defenceman. And as was the case in Vancouver, Chris Campoli played major minutes. Low men on the ToI pole were Yannick Weber and Emelin, who was minus-2 in 15:49 and had Ennis’s second goal tick in off his stick as he scrambled to cover the odd-man rush created by Markov being caught up the ice.
On L’Antichambre, Guy Carbonneau was angry about the lack of intensity displayed by too many of the Canadiens. Carbo sees the futility of a lost season taking its toll on players who mailed one in.
He didn’t name any names, but Bourque was invisible and the kids, Blake Geoffrion and Louis Leblanc, didn’t contribute much.
Lars Eller played almost 20 minutes and was a team-worst minus-3. He was on for Myers’ winning goal.
There is no rest for this road-weary team.
The Buffalo game launched a week in which the Canadiens will play four games in six nights, including home and home with the Senators and – get your tickets early – a Saturday night class of the Also-Rans that has the Islanders visiting the Bell Centre.