MONTREAL – It took 81 days and nine different attempts, but the Buffalo Sabres have finally won consecutive games.
Paul Gaustad matched his career-high with three points, and the Sabres scored three unanswered goals to topple the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in front of a frustrated Bell Centre crowd on Tuesday night.
Coupled with last Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win in New Jersey, the Sabres have now won two games in a row for the first time since November 8-11. It was also Buffalo’s first two-game road winning streak since November 14-18.
“It was something where we needed to play 60 minutes, and we did that tonight,” said Gaustad, who had missed the previous three games with an upper body injury. “I thought we played well with the lead, and when things went bad on that first goal, we stuck with it. It didn’t deflate us. We didn’t say ‘oh no here it goes again.’ We went back at it, and I thought that showed some good character.”
Ryan Miller turned aside 27 Montreal shots to earn his 234th career victory, tying him with Dominik Hasek for the all-time franchise lead. With all of his and the team’s struggles lately, just reaching the milestone was a long time coming for Miller.
“I knew I was close because I’ve been sitting on it way too long, considering where I was at to start the season,” joked Miller. “It’s nice, one of those things you can smile about looking back on my career later on. I’m gonna take it for what it is though, because I think Dom would’ve won a few shootouts in his day.”
Tyler Ennis didn’t show up on the scoresheet, but his speed and offensive creativity were a welcome breath of fresh air in the Buffalo lineup. Ennis had missed the last 17 games after reinjuring his ankle in Pittsburgh on December 17. Lindy Ruff praised Ennis’ work, especially since he was playing center for the first time this season.
“I thought he played really well for his first tilt. We had him [at center] a couple of times in practice,” Ruff said. “But I thought he really moved. He made the Canadiens back off; his speed was real evident in the game. It gives us another tool down the middle.”
Ennis went eight-of-15 on faceoffs, and recorded two shots on goal in 18:46 of ice time.
Thomas Vanek left the game after the first period with an upper body injury, and did not return. Ruff said Vanek is likely to miss at least a week, but he’ll evaluated on Wednesday back in Buffalo.
Montreal started the scoring at 4:09 on Max Pacioretty’s 18th goal of the season. Pacioretty was stopped on his initial shot, but was then able to bang the rebound under Miller's right pad. The Sabres outshot the Canadiens 11-8, with their best scoring chances coming off the sticks of Jason Pominville, Mike Weber and Thomas Vanek.
Buffalo held the offensive edge in the second as they outshot the Habs 19-7. Ville Leino answered Montreal’s first period goal with a slick tally of his own at 4:01. Leino took a pass from Gaustad just inside the Montreal blueline, then pulled the toe drag move in front on Raphael Diaz before burying the wrister past past Price.
Buffalo took the lead for good at 6:17 when Gaustad parked himself in front and outworked Hal Gill to redirect Brad Boyes' pass in front. Patrick Kaleta added some insurance with his fourth goal of the season into an empty net goal at 19:08. The Sabres had 10 shots in the period, finishing the night with a 40-28 advantage.