Hockey

Canadiens sloppy in loss to Sabres

The Montreal Canadiens spent a lot of time in the box and chasing Buffalo's forwards around their own end in a 5-3 home loss to the Sabres in exhibition play Thursday.

Bell Centre, Montreal

   1  2  3  T
Buffalo  1 3  1  5
Montreal  0 2  1  3

Top Performers

Alex Auld (MTL):   32 saves

Luke Adam (BUF): 2 goals

Tim Connolly (BUF): 1 goal

In Montreal's first game with Brian Gionta  as captain, the Canadiens came out with little jump at Bell Centre and were lucky to be down just 1-0 after the first period, with Auld making 13 saves. Yes, Auld let in a weak goal in the third to make it 5-2 Buffalo, but he was the main reason the Canadiens were in the game after two periods.

Montreal will have a final pre-season game, Saturday in Quebec City against the New York Islanders. Buffalo plays two against Philadelphia to finish their exhibition slate.

Key to the game

Given the number of veterans each side chose to dress on Thursday, Buffalo probably had an edge in talent. But what had to be worrisome for Montreal fans was the disparity in effort.

The Sabres outworked the Canadiens in most individual battles, scored three power-play goals and killed off every penalty.

Warning signs

Any hockey story in September needs to be prefaced by the fact that these are exhibitions. The Habs didn't dress Hal Gill, Tomas Plekanec, Josh Gorges and Mike Cammalleri, while Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik are injured.

But the Canadiens took eight minor penalties, in large part because they allowed Buffalo's forwards — hardly an imposing bunch — to drive to the net on Auld with impunity.

Alexandre Picard  was spotted knocking down a Buffalo forward cleanly in the first, but on the whole the Montreal defence displayed precious little aggressiveness.

For Buffalo, Thomas Vanek . Vanek scored in the first while falling in the slot but got up gingerly. He didn't return after the second period. It was unclear if it was a result of that play or a subsequent one.

Vanek has been brittle in the past and the Sabres need the sniper healthy to have a chance in the Northeast.

Kids' report card

Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth wasn't scintillating but he showed character in putting a flukey deflection goal in the second behind him.

Sabres defender Drew Schiestel was a standout. He scored in the third, but more impressively, demonstrated an ability to make a quick pass into the neutral zone and was a key figure as Buffalo killed off Montreal's 5-on-3 power play in the first.

Few of the Montreal kids distinguished themselves offensively, with the goals coming from journeyman Mathieu Darche and Tom Pyatt, as well as defenceman Ryan O'Byrne.

P.K. Subban and Ben Maxwell each took a pair of penalties.