Seconds and inches

Thursday, 07.02.2013 / 11:59 PM canadiens.com

BUFFALO – After a hard loss in Buffalo, the Habs evaluate the positives that earned them a point and the negatives that cost them a second.

While the Canadiens may have a hard time swallowing the 5-4 shootout loss they were dealt by the Sabres Thursday night, they can take comfort in the fact that much like the entirety of their season to date, there were many more good things to focus on than bad.

After not having trailed the Sabres at any point in the match, penalty trouble in the third frame shrunk down the Habs’ two goal lead following a power play marker from Thomas Vanek. Then, with only two seconds left of the clock Vanek struck again during a chaotic goalmouth scramble in front of Peter Budaj that sent the game into overtime.

“It’s a matter of opinon, I think. He kind of pushed me into the net, the puck was lying there and I couldn’t stop myself. These things happen in a matter of seconds and I would have liked the whistle blown a little earlier, but we just have to be stronger for next time,” said Budaj, who turned aside 36 of the Sabres 40 shots on the night, coming up big for the Habs during a 5-on-3 early in the second. “It’s a hard way to lose especially when you’re up by two goals.”

Despite the difficult end to the game, head coach Michel Therrien was still happy with the effort his squad put forward in their second of back-to-back games.

“We played yesterday and the Sabres were a fresh team. We came in expecting a tough game, but we managed to stay in it the whole way through and we created opportunities to win the game,” shared Therrien. “We deserved better than we got tonight. We were up 4-2 and we were in control of the game.”

A point may have slipped through their fingers in the final seconds of Thursday’s match-up, but a quick look at the big picture offers a reminder that the team is and has been heading in the right direction since Day 1.

“I think we’ve put ourselves in a very good position after ten games. When we look at tonight’s game we know had an excellent opportunity to pick up an extra point that we were unable to take advantage of,” admitted the Habs’ head coach after capturing his 13th point of the season. “Obviously we’re disappointed with the outcome, but at the same time we have to be happy about where we are.”

Once again, a standout for the Canadiens remained the line of Tomas Plekanec, Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta, who provided the biggest offensive punch for the club. With Plekanec scoring twice and Bourque picking up two assists while peppering Ryan Miller with a team-high seven shots, it’s clear the trio is continuing to pick up steam.

“I think we played very well over the course of these last 10 games. We had some excellent performances in that time,” said Plekanec, who was a plus-2 on the night and responsible for the Canadiens’ first and last goals of the evening. “We want to keep our focus on continuing to improve and keep looking forward as a team.

“Of course it’s frustrating to get scored on with two seconds left in the game,” added the veteran center. “This was one we obviously wanted to win, but again we’re going to have to turn the page, learn from our mistakes and look towards the next game.”

And what better way to do that than by avenging their first loss of the season to the Maple Leafs when the Toronto squad hits the Bell Centre on Saturday night.

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

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