Hopefully, Saturday night wasn't a preview of things to come when the Buffalo Sabres open the regular season against the Montreal Canadiens.
In their second-to-last tuneup of the preseason, the Sabres discovered why a two-goal lead is the most dangerous one to have in hockey as they failed to hold on to an early 2-0 edge in dropping a 3-2 decision to the Canadiens.
A pre-season sellout crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre watched a pair of new Habs, including former Sabres defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, spark Montreal's comeback triumph. But returning starting goalie Carey Price gave the Habs a chance to win by turning aside 29 shots.
"A lot of self-inflicted pain where big turnovers led to big chances," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "But I think there was a lot of good character building in the game, you get into those scrums and you start sticking up for each other it's a lot of good stuff. . . . There was a lot of good [Saturday night]."
Buffalo plays its final preseason game tonight in Toronto (Radio 550, 7 p.m.) before opening the real season at HSBC Arena on Saturday against the Canadiens.
That will be Spacek's first official game against his former team, but he served up a reminder of what he can do offensively in the second period. Spacek, the Sabres' top-scoring defenseman last year, earned an assist on former New Jersey Devil Brian Gionta's power-play goal at 12:32.
The Habs tied it with 23 seconds left in the second period when Maxim Lapierre stepped into a slap shot. Gregory Stewart's wrister at 5:36 of the third beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller for the game-winner.
Miller finished with 18 saves, denying Lapierre on a two-man break and former Ranger Scott Gomez on another breakaway while protecting a 2-1 lead.
The Sabres took the early lead when Clarke MacArthur scored on a breakaway at 55 seconds of the first. He broke in from the right wing and slipped the puck around Price's outstretched right pad for his second goal of the preseason. Nathan Gerbe scored unassisted at 10:30 while the Sabres (3-1-1) were short-handed.
The game featured two fights, including one involving Patrick Kaleta. The Angola native got into a scrap with Ryan O'Byrne after Montreal's defenseman took umbrage with the Sabres winger driving Tom Pyatt's head into the glass. Kaleta received a game misconduct for the hit as Pyatt was helped off the ice and didn't return.
"He's got to be a little bit more careful there but there was no intent [to injure]," Ruff said. "I think it was Pyatt just had himself in a bad spot."