Montreal entered Friday’s game seven points behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite the loss, they remained mathematically alive, thanks to Toronto’s triumph over New York.
“We just have to finish strong,” Montreal center Yanic Perreault said. “We can’t worry about the Islanders. But they lost tonight, so we’re still alive and you never know what can happen. Hopefully, we can put a little streak together.”
After losing the first three of a six-game road trip earlier this month, the Canadiens won the final three and headed home for five straight. Just three points behind the Islanders, Montreal dropped four of the five contests at Bell Centre, collecting just three of the possible 10 points.
“I think it is a situation where we lost a few games about a week ago where I thought we played some good hockey,” coach Claude Julien said. “I’m talking about the New Jersey game, a 1-0 loss and the 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay. I thought we played well and that certainly hurt us. When you work hard and probably deserve better than what happens, that’s pretty demoralizing.”
In this one, Pyatt began his big night a minute into the contest. After missing the previous four games with a concussion, Pyatt put a snap shot over goaltender Mathieu Garon for his 11th tally of the season.
“It’s a funny game,” Pyatt said. “Sometimes, you roll through the punches and get a little bit of confidence. It’s been a lot easier out there and the ice seems to open up a little bit. It’s been a tough season where I’ve gone some long stretches without scoring and to get three in one game, it’s definitely a good feeling and a good confidence booster.”
After Jochen Hecht doubled Buffalo’s lead just 30 seconds into the second period, Pyatt netted goals 93 seconds apart to open up a four-goal cushion.
Biron turned aside 22 shots over the first two periods before losing his bid for his fifth shutout of the season with 11:53 remaining in the third.
“It was extremely productive, and an extremely efficient game,” Biron said. “We skated, we got pucks to the net and I think in the second period, we took our speed to another level that really created a lot of room on the ice. I think we’ve been really consistent for six or seven games now, and that’s the way we wanted to play for the whole season.”
The Sabres extended their home winning streak to four games and improved to 10-6-2-4 after a franchise-record eight-game losing skid.
Perreault scored the lone goal for the Canadiens, who fell to 1-4-0-1 in the last six games.
“I don’t think we played very well at all,” Julien said. “We have to be accountable as individuals if we want to get better as a team. Tonight, we had some guys who probably were trying to do a little too much to compensate for guys who aren’t doing enough, and that makes for a pretty poor effort overall.”
Hecht netted his 10th goal when Garon dived to stop a cross-ice pass, allowing the German center to backhand in a loose puck from the doorstep in the opening minute of the second period.
Pyatt completed his hat trick midway through the session, tipping a shot by Zhitnik over Garon before converting a 2-on-1 with Satan after a turnover by Montreal defenseman Craig Rivet.