BUFFALO — Canadiens defenceman Ben Chiarot said there’s a lesson to be learned from the team’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday.
The game featured another one of those trademark comebacks to force overtime and, while Chiarot said it was good to experience the resiliency, he wishes it weren’t necessary.
“The game should look the same, no matter what, it should be aggressive, in their face,” said Chiarot.”When you’re up, you can’t sit back and protect the lead. You have to still play aggressive, and keep them on their heels.”
The Canadiens had only one lead, at 2-1 after the first period, but they fell behind 4-2 and needed another third-period push with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Chiarot scoring to force the overtime.
The Sabres scored two goals on five power-play opportunities and, while coach Claude Julien tipped his hat to the Buffalo power play, he wondered aloud about why the Sabres had that many opportunities.
“Discipline is a concern, but you saw some penalties like the first one on (Tomas) Tatar and the last one, when they called a penalty (against Phillip Danault) in the last minute of a tie game that’s kind of questionable,” Julien said. “Tonight, Paulie (Byron) gets slashed on the way in on a breakaway and that’s not called and I don’t think Tatar touched the guy with this stick on an earlier one. It’s okay to question discipline, but to me there were probably three penalties that never should have been called.”
But Julien didn’t heap all the blame on the officiating.
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“Having said that, we have to look at ourselves because we never cleared the puck when we had the opportunity,” Julien added. “We have to be better on a the penalty kill because eventually it catches up to you. I think there were at least four, maybe five times that puck should have been out of our end and eventually a good power play like theirs will make you pay for it.”
Over four games, the Sabres have the best power-play record in the NHL, connecting on eight of their 15 opportunities.
“They found seams on us all night and we didn’t clear the puck,” Chiarot said. The one guy, (Jack) Eichel, he scored on a high shot far side and we have to do a better job of taking that angle away on (goaltender Keith Kinkaid). They moved it around too easily, that is on us not getting it down the ice but they have some good players.”
Kinkaid was making his Canadiens debut.
“I was playing a little shaky at the start,” said Kinkaid, who was making his first start since February. “They had some big bodies in front and they were getting shots through. “It’s been a while since I played and I need to be better.”
Kinkaid said he would have liked to get another chance at Eichel’s second goal, which gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead. Eichel scored the unassisted effort on a shot off a rush up the middle.
“I don’t think Jack thought he was going to score on that, but it hit a stick and came in funny,” Kinkaid said. “It was a bad goal.”
The Canadiens picked up four out of a possible six points on the season-opening trip and Julien said it was good, but could have been better.
“Four out of six points is a good start and when you look at the teams we played, Buffalo is off to a good start and so are Toronto and Carolina,” Julien said. “You have to be happy with the points, but you don’t have to be happy with the performance. I think tonight we had a great comeback, but we dug ourselves a hole and had to dig ourselves back out. That’s two games in a row we have had to do that.”