Canadiens must quickly forget about uncharacteristic loss against Sabres

MONTREAL — Burn the tape.

The Montreal Canadiens aren’t going to learn anything they don’t already know after Tuesday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres, so there isn’t much point in thoroughly reviewing it. They were horrible from start to finish, allowing three goals in the first two minutes and 13 seconds and three more unanswered through the second half of the game to a team that came to the Bell Centre on an eight-game winless streak.

This was bound to happen eventually. That the Canadiens played 18 games before skating through a stinker this bad is the only real surprise.

They were structured, smart, resilient and impressive in almost all of them prior to Tuesday, but they were the opposite of everything they’ve been in this 7-2 loss on home ice.

The Canadiens were disorganized, disengaged and discombobulated, and the result was exactly what they deserved.

Tage Thomspon, who had a goal and three assists and helped the Sabres control 81 per cent of the shot attempts and 85 per cent of the expected goals at 5-on-5, could’ve beaten the Canadiens all on his own.

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“He’s a big player, he’s got good hands,” Montreal’s Kaiden Guhle said of the six-foot-six centre, who now has 12 goals in his last 12 games and 26 points on the season. “He keeps the puck in his feet, it’s hard to take it from him. He’s a really good player. He had a good game tonight. He played well. He’s a really good player.”

Thompson was the opposite of every Canadien on the ice in this game, and when something like that happens, you don’t dwell on it.

For Martin St. Louis, the Canadiens coach who insists on coaching trends versus one-offs, this one is a throw-away. Especially with the Canadiens flying out to face the Blue Jackets on Wednesday.

“We’re just going to get ready for Columbus tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll address some of these things in a short period of time, but I don’t think we’re going to really break down this game because we’ve gotta to get ready for Columbus. And that’s the approach we’re going to take.

“Is there a couple of things we can go over? Maybe. But there’s no way we can really go over this game that we played tonight and be ready for tomorrow.”

That it was such an uncharacteristic performance from the Canadiens makes it easier to treat it that way.

“It was one of those games,” said St. Louis. “Sometimes it’s going to happen, and sometimes you’ve gotta move on.”

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The Canadiens have to review that for a third consecutive game they fell behind 2-0 — and that they went down 2-0 in the opening minutes of the last one and did it once again on Tuesday despite placing a pre-game emphasis on properly managing the opening period against a hungry and desperate Sabres team.

There’s no ignoring that.

“We’re running out of mulligans,” St. Louis said of the trend, adding that what had been an early-season strength for his team — the start of games — is becoming a weakness that must be corrected quickly.

He also knows the Canadiens need to tighten up defensively because even if they’ve been generating a lot of scoring chances of late, they’ve been giving up far too many.

But goaltender Jake Allen has been a lot better on most nights than he was on this one, and he could have done more to cover up those errors. The defence has been remarkably stable despite its inexperience, but it was much sloppier against Buffalo than it was in previous games. And the Canadiens forwards, who have played rather maturely for a group led by several young, offensively gifted players, were too loose on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t our game from the start,” said St. Louis.

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Juraj Slafkovsky said the coach had told the Canadiens after the first period they were lucky to be only down 3-1.

The story didn’t change much going to second intermission, with the home side trailing the Sabres 4-2.

“We needed to play better (in the third),” said David Savard, “and we didn’t.”

Savard and his teammates all know they need to be much better on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we’ll take much out of today,” he said. “I think it was just one of those games where nothing was going our way. It was just a frustrating night and I think we’ve just gotta put it behind us and keep going.”

That’s a much better plan for the Canadiens than watching what they did against the Sabres.

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