The Montreal Canadiens are about to celebrate their storied past. The current version of the once-mighty dynasty hasn’t had much to feel good about lately.
Clarke MacArthur, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy scored first-period goals, Ryan Miller made 21 saves, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Canadiens 6-2 on Thursday night.
“We wanted to come strong, which we did,” Pominville said. “We’re playing five games in a row here at home and we want to establish that we’re a good home team, a team that’s hard to play at home. We didn’t really give them any opportunities until the third.”
It was the fourth straight win for Buffalo and the fourth consecutive loss for the Canadiens, who will celebrate their 100th anniversary on Friday against the Boston Bruins.
“It’s the 100-year anniversary, we’ll try not to let our fans down,” centre Maxim Lapierre said. “We have to win that game and give our best performance.”
Miller made few difficult saves until late and notched his 16th win. Tim Kennedy, Andrej Sekera, and Michael Grier also scored for Buffalo, which outshot Montreal 37-23. Thomas Vanek had three assists.
Scott Gomez and Josh Gorges had Montreal goals.
Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for the Canadiens, who fell behind 4-0 and failed to register a shot from 7:23 of the first period until 19:01 of the second, a span of over 13½ minutes.
Both teams played Toronto in their previous games, and both ended 3-0. The Sabres won in Toronto on Monday and the Canadiens lost at home Tuesday.
The Canadiens continued to falter after Miller stopped Michael Cammalleri in the first minute from the left side. After that, it was all Sabres, who outshot the Canadiens 15-3 in the first.
MacArthur gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead 2:28 in. Halak, in his 10th game this season, was unable to control a shot by Drew Stafford and it bounced in front. MacArthur quickly put the puck over Halak’s blocker for his eighth goal.
The line of Pominville, Jochen Hecht and Roy dominated the defenceless Canadiens. Pominville notched his sixth goal at 6:16 to make it 2-0.
The Sabres made it 3-0 on a goal that almost seemed too easy. Pominville picked up a loose puck along the boards and feathered a perfect pass from the right corner through the crease between Halak and kneeling defenceman Ryan O’Byrne to the stick of Roy, who redirected it into the gaping left side.
“I think we did a great job with the puck,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “The one thing we talked about as a team was preparation. I think they did their job. They came to play and came to play hard.”
Kennedy scored 4:31 into the second. It was his second goal in two games and third of the season.
“We knew the type of game they would play, come out hard the first 10 minutes. We did not respond,” said Halak, who hadn’t played in more than three weeks. “Obviously, I did not feel my best out there, and it shows with the rebounds.”
“He didn’t have any help,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. “Most of the goals that were scored were second and third chances. You’ve got to win battles. We lost too many battles. They beat us to the puck. They were more determined than us.”
Brian Gionta and Gomez combined to produce the decisive goal in Montreal’s 2-1 overtime win in the Sabres’ season opener. But Gionta has missed nine games with a foot injury and Gomez didn’t strike until the Canadiens were down by four.
The speedy centre one-timed a cross-ice feed from Sergei Kostitsyn at 16:50 of the second for his third goal.
“Enough is enough,” Gorges said. “We have to stop this right now, be prepared and ready to play. No night is going to be an easy night.
“I feel sometimes we want to work, then we start to overwork. You look at the first period, everyone was trying to do everyone else’s job and we started running around,” Gorges said. “Good teams will pick you apart, and that’s what they did.”
The Canadiens had their lone power play midway through the third. But after the Sabres killed it, Gorges converted the rebound of a shot by Lapierre at 11:27 to move Montreal within 4-2.
Sekera scored his first of the season with 6:48 left and Grier scored in the final minute to quash the Canadiens’ comeback.
NOTES: Buffalo D Chris Butler sprained an ankle sprain in the first period and didn’t return. Ruff was unsure when Butler would be able to play. … The Sabres also were without C Paul Gaustad (knee), who missed his third straight game. … With a record of 10-0, the Sabres are among nine undefeated teams when leading after two periods. The Rangers and Devils are tied for the undefeated lead at 11-0.