After suffering eight straight losses, the Buffalo Sabres can finally breathe.
Jeff Skinner picked up two goals and three assists as Buffalo took a resounding 7-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night.
“It’s taking a weight off my shoulders, I can tell you that personally,” said Sabres coach Don Granato. “It’s fun to see the guys play that way, obviously.”
Granato said the skid has been a learning experience for his young team whose last win came on Nov. 2.
“They care and they work and we’re young,” he added. “If I had an older team, I wouldn’t be in these situations and you go through the streaks. They know where they’re at. These guys get better because of this stuff.”
Tage Thompson recorded a goal and three assists on the night while Rasmus Dahlin and Alex Tuch each notched one goal and two assists. JJ Peterka and Henri Jokiharju added the others for Buffalo (8-11-0).
Craig Anderson made 29 saves.
Cole Caufield and Sean Monahan scored for Montreal (9-9-1). Jake Allen had a rough day at the office allowing seven goals on 38 shots.
“I think it was a bad game all around,” said Montreal defenceman David Savard. “We’ve got to move past it. And obviously we’ve got some stuff to learn, which is that bad start in the first period and it put us behind.
“It’s a couple of games now and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready tomorrow to go and play our game. We’ve been in every game so far if we play our style and our system, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Canadiens struggled on the power play, going 0 for 6 with the man advantage, including a four-on-three opportunity halfway through the second period.
“I think the first two power plays had some good chances, the last four weren’t very strong,” said Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis. “We want to create scoring chances and I think apart from tonight, our power play in the last 10 games was still pretty good. It’s just that tonight wasn’t our night.”
The Sabres, meanwhile, jumped out of the blocks with a 3-0 lead in the first 2:13. It was their second fastest three-goal tally to begin a game in franchise history.
Thompson found Dahlin in the slot to make it 1-0 only 35 seconds after puck drop.
Seventeen seconds later, the Sabres attacked Allen’s crease and Peterka netted Buffalo’s second of the night.
In an attempt to shift the momentum, Canadiens defenceman Chris Wideman dropped the gloves with Sabres forward Tyson Jost after Montreal’s Michael Pezetta was called for boarding.
Instead, Tuch jumped on the opportunity to triple Buffalo’s lead with a wrist shot on the power play.
Tuch said the team was “on a mission” and that Anderson had a word to say on how the team helped their blue line and their performance on both sides of the ice.
“We had a lot of conversations, but Andy’s been talking about it a lot and it’s playing in the D side. I thought everyone did that tonight,” Tuch said. “And you know what, if you made a mistake, the guy backing you up is on the D side. I thought we were able to really help each other out, out there.
“That helps defensively and it leads to offence a lot of times so it’s something that I thought we did the first 10 games or so and now we got back to it tonight.”
The Habs cut the deficit to two goals when Caufield sent a slap shot past Anderson at 2:57 of the first.
Buffalo regained its three-goal cushion 11:21 into the second when Thompson found Skinner in the slot with a backhand pass and the winger scored his sixth of the season.
Montreal made it a 4-2 game when Monahan took the puck from centre ice, drove down and scored off his own rebound at 13:57.
The Sabres bumped their advantage to three when Tuch rounded the net and sent a backhand pass to Jokiharju who beat Allen for his first of the season at 3:48 of the third.
Thompson added his team’s sixth goal at 6:39 of the final frame with a wrist shot over Allen’s glove.
Skinner iced the game with a one-timer from the right face-off circle at 14:26.
Dahlin’s coming of age
Rasmus Dahlin has had a white-hot start to his fifth National Hockey League season. The first overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft has recorded 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in his last 10 games.
Skinner vs. Montreal
Jeff Skinner has all the games against the Canadiens circled on his calendar. The 30-year-old winger collected two goals and three assists on Tuesday night bringing his total against the Habs to 40 points (23 goals, 17 assists) in 37 games.
The Canadiens will travel to Columbus overnight to take on the Blue Jackets Wednesday.
The Sabres will head back to Buffalo to host the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.