Canadiens edge pesky Sabres 3-2
Alex Galchenyuk shoots on Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth (1) during second period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal, Saturday, December 7, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe
Published Saturday, December 7, 2013 9:38PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 7, 2013 9:59PM EST
MONTREAL - Tomas Plekanec scored one goal and assisted on another to help propel the Habs (18-9-3) to their fifth-straight win, a 3-2 victory over the pesky underdogs from Buffalo (6-22-2) at the Bell Centre Saturday.
The Habs broke a 1-1 deadlock with the Sabres late in the second period when fourth-liners Brandon Prust and Travis Moen worked the puck deep into the Sabres’ zone. Prust, standing behind the Sabres’ net, passed to a streaking Plekanec who fired a quick wrist shot past Sabres' goaltender Jhonas Enroth to give the Habs a 2-1 lead at 17:44 of the second period.
Just seconds after the marker, the Sabres missed an opportunity to notch the score up, as a Carey Price snafu left a puck in the crease near the vacated Canadiens' fishnet but the Sabres were too far away from the puck to capitalize on the opportunity.
And just seconds after that missed oppoprtunity, the Canadiens scored a nifty goal on a tic-tac-toe passing play which started when Plekanec sped into the Sabres' zone and tossed a puck to Andrei Markov, who threw it across crease to Alex Galchenyuk. The American sophomore's quick shot from the circle beat Enroth on the glove side to give the Canadiens a 3-1 lead. It was Galchenyuk's eighth of the season.
Zemgus Girgensons then brought the Sabres to within a goal after coralling a Terry Harper-style aerial pass that fell at his feet as he pushed forward alone towards the Habs' blueline. The 19-year-old Latvian rookie managed to control the fly-ball style missive after it descended to the ice. The speedy Girgensons evaded a puck-watching P.K. Subban and then snaked past an outstretched Carey Price to net his second of the season. Tyler Ennis and Henrik Tallinder earned assists on the goal, scored at 4:04 of the third.
The two squads had traded goals earlier in the second, as Brandon Prust opened the scoring with his third of the season. Prust started the play by pouncing on former Hab Matt D’Agostini as he was bringing the puck out of the Buffalo zone along the right wing boards.
Prust moved the puck to Ryan White, who passed to Travis Moen, who returned it Prust in the crease. Prust made no mistake, knocking home his third of the year at 00:19 of the second.
The Sabres managed to tie it up for a few minutes as Tyler Ennis notched his sixth of the season at 8:55. Ennis surprised Carey Price after he received the puck on a cross-ice feed from Christian Ehrhoff from deep within the Canadiens’ zone.
The four second period goals stood in contrast to the uneventful first period, which saw the Sabres outshoot the Canadiens five to four, in a period which saw no penalties called.
The Sabres, known as one of the most physical teams in the league, even without 6'8" giant John Scott in their lineup, outhit the Canadiens 46-26.
Andrei Markov fell awkwardly after being intertwined with a Buffalo forward late in the third period. He continued to play but appeared to grimace in pain and suffered reduced mobility for some time after due to an apparent lower-body malaise.
The Sabres outshot the Canadiens 25-19 in the game.
With the win, the Canadiens climbed into a first-place tie for the Eastern Conference lead with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who lost 3-2 to Boston, on a Zdeno Chara goal scored with 13 seconds remaining. Both the Habs and the Pens have 41 points after 30 games.
The Canadiens next play Tuesday, as they host the L.A. Kings (18-7-4) before heading on the road to play the Flyers and Islanders on Thursday and Saturday.