BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Jake Allen stopped 36 of 37 shots by the Sabres, stealing a 3-1 win for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night at KeyBank Center.
Jeff Skinner scored the sole goal for Buffalo (2-4-0), his team-best third of the season. Dylan Cozens and Rasmus Dahlin assisted on the power play in the first period. Eric Comrie made 23 saves in his second consecutive start, as the Sabres lost despite generating 18 more shot attempts than the Habs, and 11 more on net.
‘Struggle to score’
The Sabres have 13 goals through six games, 10 fewer than they scored in starting 4-2-0 last season. This was the second game with just one goal, something that happened only once in the first 12 a year ago.
Buffalo had its scoring chances Monday night, at least as many (19) as the Canadiens had at 5-on-5, according to Natural Stat Trick. But the visitors had a 12-4 advantage in high-danger chances, and the net front was where Brendan Gallagher poked in the go-ahead goal at 3:31 into the third period.
Coach Don Granato is confident the skillful Sabres will regain their scoring touch. They were third in the NHL last season averaging 3.6 goals per game. But he recognizes the Sabres need to work harder at creating their own puck luck.
“This team and this group will score,” Granato said. “Yeah, it’s frustrating tonight. You had numerous chances that they didn’t convert on. But I do think, as I said, when you’re struggling to score, go to the net more. Be willing to score maybe the ugly one, the grittier one. And that’s how you resolve it.”
‘Win a lot of games playing like that’
Tage Thompson’s resolve is being tested. With five more fruitless shots on goal, his 29 in six games have resulted in a single goal. That’s as many as he scored in the first seven games last season, before netting six in the next three games and finishing with 47 goals, the most by any Sabres player in 30 seasons.
“I think as soon as you let frustration set in, negativity, you’re never going to get out of it,” Tage Thompson said. “I think goals come in waves. I think a lot of times they come in waves, and you get streaky. You just got to do the right things every shift. I thought tonight we did. Obviously, that’s why that one hurts so much. But we can’t change anything. We got to play like that.”
The Sabres followed a 3-1 win Saturday with a loss by the same score, but Thompson believes they played the right way on both nights.
“We keep playing like that, that’s a winning recipe,” he said. “We’re going to win a lot of games playing like that.”
Buffalo travels to Ottawa on Tuesday, concluding its first back-to-back set of the season. The puck drops at 6:45 p.m., part of the NHL’s Frozen Frenzy, with every team in action, at staggered start times.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonnen is expected to make his season debut in goal for the Sabres, as starter Devon Levi remains day-to-day with a lower body injury. Comrie posted a 2.05 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in splitting the past two games. Craig Anderson, last year’s starting goalie now serving in a hockey liaison role for the Sabres, will sign a one-day contract with the Senators to be honored by his former team at the game.
The Sabres then visit Lindy Ruff and the New Jersey Devils on Friday night. They return home for Sunday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, wearing retro “goat head” uniforms for the second time this season. The Sabres are 11-1-1 in the throwback look over the past year.
The Sabres have loaned rookie forward Matt Savoie to the Rochester Americans for a conditioning assignment.
The 19-year-old Savoie, Buffalo’s first-round draft pick in 2022, recently came off injured reserve after hurting his shoulder in the final game of the prospects challenge. His time in the minors will be limited, due to the American Hockey League’s agreement about using the Canadian Hockey League’s junior-eligible players.
“First of all, I’m excited for him,” Granato said following Monday morning’s skate. “He had an injury last year in prospect camp, he couldn’t play. Second game early in rookie camp this year he’s injured and couldn’t participate in camp. And you miss a ton of experience. …
“You know the kid works hard. He made himself a much better player than one year ago when he was in camp, and it’s easy to see that from the coaching side. So I’m excited to see how he responds from his time in Rochester.”
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.