Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens rallied back to avoid playoff elimination with less than three weeks left in their season. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are running out of chances to stay in the Eastern Conference wild-card hunt.
Gallagher forced overtime by scoring his 200th career goal, and Michael Pezzetta scored the decisive shootout goal in a 4-3 win over the Sabres on Monday night.
“It’s one of those things I think we earned that chance. We weren’t fantastic but we did enough on the road tonight to get a win,” Gallagher said. “Smiles all around.”
The Canadiens could laugh, especially after Pezzetta celebrated his goal by putting his stick between his legs and riding it like a wooden horse – much like former NHL tough guy Dave (Tiger) Williams did during his 14-year NHL career spanning the 1970s and ‘80s.
“I’m not sure we’ll see that again. One of a kind,” said Gallagher. “I’d be worried about falling over.”
Pezzetta scored by driving in from the right circle to beat Eric Comrie inside the far post. Buffalo’s Jack Quinn scored in the fourth shootout round, but was matched by Montreal’s Jesse Ylonen, whose shot from in tight managed to trickle in through Comrie.
Jordan Harris and Alex Belzile also scored for Montreal, and Jake Allen stopped 30 shots through overtime, while allowing one goal on six shootout attempts.
Montreal would have been eliminated from playoff contention for a second straight season – and two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final – with any type of loss.
The Sabres squandered a 3-2 third-period lead to drop to 3-6-3 in their past 12. Buffalo also blew a chance to move to within four points of idle Pittsburgh, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot.
“Just a little hesitation,” forward J.J. Peterka said of the Sabres third-period lapse. “We didn’t play with much energy and we didn’t play that aggressive as we played the two periods before. I think that was the difference.”
Buffalo’s Lukas Rousek scored a goal and added an assist while filling in for leading scorer Tage Thompson, who did not play due to an upper body injury. Peterka and defenceman Riley Stillman also scored, and Comrie stopped 38 shots through overtime, and allowed two goals on six shootout attempts.
Montreal blew two one-goal leads to fall behind 3-2 on Stillman’s goal at the 8:31 mark of the second period.
Gallagher scored on the fly by using Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin as a screen to snap in a shot inside the far left post. With the goal, Gallagher tied Bobby Rousseau for 24th on the Canadiens career scoring list.
“I liked the way we corrected ourselves, it’s a sign of maturity, in the way we stayed on task,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said, in recalling how the Canadiens recently unravelled in an 8-4 loss two weeks ago to Colorado, which plays a similar uptempo style as Buffalo.
Rousek, who tied the game at 1, was filling in for Sabres leading-scorer Tage Thompson, who is day to day with an upper body injury. The 2019 sixth-round draft pick became Buffalo’s 27th player to score in his first NHL game, and first since Ethan Prow did so on Dec. 29, 2021, against New Jersey.
With an assist on Stillman’s goal, Rousek became Buffalo’s first player to score and earn at least two points in his NHL debut since Maxim Afinogenov had a goal and assist on Nov. 10, 1999, against Boston.
The Sabres hosted their third Pride Night, with Russian D Ilya Lyubushkin electing not to participate in warmups by citing an anti-gay Kremlin law and fears of retribution at home in Moscow, where he has family and visits in the off-season. The remainder of the team wore dark blue jerseys with the Sabres logo on the front encircled by a rainbow-colored outline.
During the first intermission, the Sabres broadcast a video in which GM Kevyn Adams said: “This is about recognizing someone’s humanity and true identity. We know there are people out there struggling with who they are, and we want them to know that they have an ally in the Buffalo Sabres.”
Canadiens: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night.
Sabres: Host the New York Rangers on Friday night.