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Exhibit A is shot in the arm for Sabres' offense

The Sabres reached 40 shots just four times in 82 games last season. That's a paltry 4.9 percent.

They're at 100 percent this season.

OK, it's one game, and it could dip to 50 percent Saturday when Buffalo visits the New York Islanders. But Phil Housley promised a more exciting offense, and Exhibit A was encouraging.

"That was a great step in the right direction as far as our shot mentality and our shot mindset goes," Housley said Friday. "We did a lot of good things. We can take a lot away from that game, but it's just one game."

The Sabres outshot Montreal, 45-40, in Thursday's season-opening 3-2 shootout loss. For a team that had the shot advantage in just 24 of 82 games last year, the outing had players feeling confident this season should be different.

"We put a good amount of pucks at the net," said left wing Zemgus Girgensons, who had six shots. "Our offense is coming along."

As important as it was to get shots, even better for Buffalo was who took them and where:

*The Sabres had 35 shots at even strength, nine on the power play and one short-handed. They relied too much on their power play last season, so creating at five-on-five is a good sign.

*Of the Sabres' 69 shot attempts, 30 were from below the faceoff dots, according to HockeyStats.ca. The players were able to get close to the Montreal net.

*Defensemen registered 13 shots after averaging just seven per game last season.

"This is the game we're going to bring," blue-liner Marco Scandella said in KeyBank Center. "In the league nowadays to have success you have to have the D jumping in the rush and being part of the attack. I feel that's what we're building. Phil did a great job in Nashville, and we're trying to implement that system here.

"It's early, right? We're in Game One, and we're just going to get better. I just felt like Game One was a good step for us."

Montreal hasn't been an easy team to test. It tied for 10th last season in fewest shots allowed, giving up 29.6 per game. Buffalo's new offense caught the Canadiens off-guard.

"They were very, very fast," Habs forward Max Pacioretty told NHL.com. "Their D are really fast, and I was very surprised by that. They took over the game and they took control of the game."

As much as there was for the Sabres to like, it was far from perfect. They attempted those 30 shots from in close, but Price saw most of them.

"We had to get bodies in front," Girgensons said. "That’s something we need to work on."

The Sabres weren't happy they allowed 40 shots. That shouldn't be a surprise, though. They did that 17 times last year.

"We gave up way too many chances against," Housley said. "That was the result of a couple things, our puck management through the neutral zone and just our coverage coming back into our zone. Those things we can sort out.

"The thing that we can control is getting pucks deep. We talk about the next level where we're getting it in the blue line, but we're not getting it into the corner. As a result, it sort of feeds their transition and we're coming back and spending energy in the wrong areas. Those things we've got to be better at.

"There's a lot of good teams out there that have good transition games. If we can control that, make them spend energy playing defense, I think that's in our favor."

Having success in the first game gives Buffalo confidence it can continue to call the shots.

"I feel like everyone believes in this room, and we just have to make a statement," Scandella said. "It's a good start. It's not the result we wanted, so we have a sour taste in our mouths. We have to go out next game and bring the same effort but clean up a few things, a few areas of our game, and we're going to have success."

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