BUFFALO, N.Y. – Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price had no trouble keeping his head up as he left the ice while Jason Pominville and the Buffalo Sabres celebrated their 2-1 overtime victory.
Price was able to stomach the loss Tuesday because he could appreciate how well the Canadiens persevered after losing two forwards before the game was five minutes old. Max Pacioretty was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons after being struck in the right side by a teammate’s shot and Mike Cammalleri didn’t return with what the team called an upper body injury.
“It almost feels like a win, getting that point,” said Price, who stopped 37 shots. “I felt like we were battling uphill all game.
“Our guys played hard and we had to earn it.”
There was more good news following the game. Canadiens spokesman Dominick Saillant told The Associated Press in an email Pacioretty travelled home with the team after meeting them at the airport.
The Sabres had reason to celebrate, too, after Pominville scored 1:09 into the extra period. In snapping a four-game skid against Montreal, they overcame a 1-0 deficit to improve to 6-2-1 in their past nine and even their record at 20-20-5.
The Sabres opened a stretch of four games in six nights by bouncing back from a dreadful 5-3 loss on Long Island last weekend.
“It’s big, but we have got to have some consistency here,” said Tyler Ennis, who had a goal and assist. “We’ve got to build off this.”
Ennis set up the decisive goal by driving up the right side and feeding Thomas Vanek, who skated toward the net and fed a blind pass into the slot, where Pominville one-timed it past Price. The goal was scored on a power play after Scott Gomez lost his cool with a retaliatory high-stick on Nathan Gerbe in the final minute of regulation.
“Gerbe did a great job getting the penalty to get that power play,” Ennis added. “When you get a chance in overtime like that, you have to bury it.
“It was big for us for Pommer to do that.”
Vanek had two assists and Ryan Miller made 29 saves.
David Desharnais scored for Montreal, which endured a what-can-go-wrong-next opening period.
Pacioretty was hurt 4:15 in, when he was parked in front of the Sabres’ net and was hit by James Wisniewski’s shot from the blue-line. Conscious and hooked to an IV, he was wheeled in a stretcher to a waiting ambulance during the first intermission.
Cammalleri was hurt 45 seconds earlier and did not return after being crosschecked to the back of the neck by Sabres defenceman Mike Weber. TSN reported Cammalleri—the Canadiens’ second-leading scorer this season—had separated his shoulder.
Weber was issued a two-minute minor penalty, which led to Desharnais’ goal.
The Canadiens, playing on consecutive nights following a 5-4 overtime win over Calgary, were actually down a third forward. Center Jeff Halpern had limited playing time after he went to the locker room on several occasions in the first period. He finished with 2:21 of ice time on five shifts, while mostly relegated to a penalty-killing role.
Coach Jacques Martin would only say Halpern had an upper body injury.
Gomez shouldered the blame for the loss for taking what he called “a dumb penalty.”
After being slashed from behind by Nathan Gerbe, Gomez wheeled around with his stick hand and hit Gerbe across the face.
“I’m not going to sit here and blame anyone,” Gomez said. “I know better than that.
“I know not to put myself in that position. I did and it cost us a chance at two points.”
The Sabres didn’t escape the injury bug as forward Drew Stafford didn’t return after hurting his groin in the first period.
Gomez and the Canadiens can thank Price for holding the fort in allowing them to register a point for the eighth time in nine games (6-1-2).
Price stopped Jochen Hecht set up in front on a 2-on-1 break midway through the first. And he then took over in the third period when it became apparent the Habs were running on fumes.
Price kicked out his left pad to foil Nathan Gerbe’s snap shot directly off a faceoff to the left of the net with 12:45 left in regulation. Two minutes later, Price kicked out his left skate to get a piece of Paul Gaustad’s shot from the slot. Price then got some help from defenceman Hal Gill, who got down on one knee to block Rob Niedermayer’s attempt to convert the rebound.
“I don’t think anybody has any reason to hang their heads in here,” rookie defenceman P.K. Subban said. “We got a point out of it.”
The Canadiens played their 3,000th NHL road game. They’re 1,251-1256-493 away from Montreal.
Notes: Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta returned after missing seven games with a hand injury. Kaleta’s return led to Buffalo demoting rookie LW Luke Adam to AHL Portland. … The Canadiens have a far superior home record, going 1,835-749-419 since the NHL was established in 1917. The Habs won their 3,000th home game, beating Boston 3-2 on Jan. 8. … Canadiens LW Benoit Pouliot missed his second game with the flu.