BUFFALO, N.Y. – It hasn’t taken long for Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez to rediscover their chemistry now that they’ve been reunited in Montreal.
An opportune bounce sure helps, too.
The two former New Jersey Devils teammates combined to produce the decisive goal 2:42 into overtime, leading the Canadiens to a come-from-behind 2-1 win to spoil the Buffalo Sabres’ season opener Saturday night..
Gomez’s initial shot from the top of the left circle deflected off a Sabres defender and sailed wide of the net. The puck, however, caromed off the end boards and directly to Gionta, who tapped it in just inside the left post and behind a surprised Ryan Miller.
“We’ll take it,” said Gionta, who started the play by crossing the blue-line and dropping a pass to Gomez. “I was going to the net trying to find it and it bounced real nice for me. Any time a wrist shot goes off the back boards, there’s a little bit of luck.”
Luck indeed, added Gomez.
“I don’t know if I could shoot that 100 times and have it bounce right there,” Gomez said. “To beat Millsie like that, those are the kind you have to get.”
Gionta and Gomez were part of the Canadiens’ off-season overhaul in which they made numerous free-agent signings. Gionta has now scored in each of Montreal’s first two games, following a season-opening 4-3 overtime victory at Toronto on Thursday.
Another newcomer, Travis Moen, also scored for the Canadiens, who are off to only their second 2-0 start in 10 seasons. Carey Price was solid in net, stopping 34 shots, and the final 33 he faced.
Tim Connolly scored the lone goal for the Sabres, who lost despite dominating most of the play in outshooting the Habs 35-17, including 11-1 in the third period.
“We didn’t give up much, but we had some opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “They tried to hang around and they got the bounce they wanted.”
Miller could only tip his hat to Gionta.
“Great hands,” Miller said. “I saw it and was trying to get out of the way from anything hitting me or anybody having an opportunity to bank it in off me. And he knocked it right in.”
Miller also had little chance on stopping Moen, who tied the game with a short-handed goal 13 minutes into the second period. From his knees, Moen managed to tap the puck toward the net and through Miller’s legs before crashing into the goaltender. The puck crossed the line before Moen and Miller knocked the net off its moorings.
Much of the credit goes to Price, who shut the door after Connolly converted a blocked shot from the slot for a power-play goal to open the scoring 2:40 into the game. His best stop against Buffalo came with under 40 seconds left in regulation when he somehow managed to get a piece of Jason Pominville’s one-timer from the right circle.
Price has been busy so far, after making 43 saves against Toronto.
The shots allowed is the only real knock first-year coach Jacques Martin has of his team.
“The chances aren’t as bad as the shots, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Martin, who’s team travels to Calgary to continue a five-game road trip. “We’ll take the two points, but at the same time we know we have to improve in certain areas.”
The Canadiens lost two players to injuries. Centre Glen Metropolit sustained an upper body injury and did not return after a collision with Buffalo forward Patrick Kaleta. Defenceman Ryan O’Byrne did not return after being hit in the foot with a shot.
Martin did not have an update on the players’ status, only to say they were being evaluated.
NOTES: Martin became the 10th to coach his 1,100 NHL game, and trails Billy Reay by two games. … The Sabres converted one of seven power-play opportunities, while the Canadiens went 0-for-6. … The Sabres are now off until Thursday, when they host Phoenix.