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Alex Tuch scores short-handed winner, Sabres top Canadiens 3-2

Buffalo Sabres' Jeff Skinner (53) scores on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault (35) as Canadiens' Joel Armia (40) tries to defend during second period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi
Buffalo Sabres' Jeff Skinner (53) scores on Montreal Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault (35) as Canadiens' Joel Armia (40) tries to defend during second period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi
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Alex Tuch scored a short-handed game-winner late in the second period as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 on Wednesday night at Bell Centre.

Zemgus Girgensons and Jeff Skinner also scored for Buffalo (25-27-4), while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 29 shots.

Skinner’s 27 career goals against the Canadiens are the second-most among active players against the franchise behind Alex Ovechkin (38).

Arber Xhekaj and Jayden Struble replied for Montreal (22-26-8), which lost a third game in a row and its fifth in six outings. Joshua Roy pitched in with two assists and Sam Montembeault made 20 saves.

Nick Suzuki was held off the scoresheet to end his 10-game point streak, while Juraj Slafkovsky’s run of eight games also came to a halt.

The Sabres jumped two points ahead of the Canadiens as both teams entered the evening with 52 points in 55 games.

Xhekaj opened the scoring 12:41 into the first period for his third of the season and second in two games. Much like his goal against Washington on Saturday, Xhekaj wound up for a one-timer from the point and blasted a feed from Roy into the top corner.

Skinner nearly got Buffalo on the board later in the period by deking out Montembeault on a wraparound, but Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson met the Sabres forward on the goal line to keep Montreal ahead in a fast-paced first period.

Girgensons eventually tied it 4:20 into the second, deflecting a point shot from Henri Jokiharju past Montembeault while standing alone in front.

Struble regained Montreal’s lead at 6:35 with a wrist shot that deflected off Sabres forward Peyton Krebs and fooled Luukkonen.

Buffalo, however, tied it up again as Skinner buried a rebound on the power play for his 18th at 9:28.

Xhekaj, doing more than contributing on the scoresheet, threw his weight around throughout the night and levelled Grigensons in open ice later in the period to bring the crowd to its feet.

The six-foot-four, 240-pound Xhekaj also got into it with six-foot-six, 231-pound Sabres forward Jordan Greenway on numerous occasions, though the two never fought.

The Sabres took their first lead of the game with Tuch scoring down a man with 1:52 left in the second after a dismal Canadiens power play that included three turnovers by Cole Caufield.

The Canadiens dominated play through most of the third, holding the Sabres without a shot in the first 12 minutes.

Roy nearly scored to tie it off giveaway as his shot squeaked through Luukkonen but just wide of the post. Anderson had another chance midway through the period with a deflection from the high slot, but Luukkonen flashed the leather to retain Buffalo’s lead.

Tage Thompson took a slashing penalty with 1:34 left to give Montreal a 6-on-4 advantage with an extra attacker.

The Canadiens, however, couldn’t sustain much zone time before Slafkovsky took a penalty for hooking with 25 seconds left.

Lineup changes

Defenceman Jordan Harris and forward Jesse Ylonen swapped into the Canadiens lineup for forward Michael Pezzetta and defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic. Harris had missed three games after sustaining a concussion against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 11. Ylonen spent to games as a healthy scratch.

For the Sabres, defenceman Kale Clague made his season debut, replacing Ryan Johnson. The 25-year-old Clague played 25 games for the Canadiens in 2021-22.

Sabres defenceman Owen Power joined his teammates for morning skate Wednesday wearing a non-contact jersey. Power, 21, sustained an injury during practice on Feb. 12 and is considered day-to-day. The 2021 No. 1 overall pick has two goals and 16 assists in 51 games this season.

Up next

Canadiens: Open a two-game road trip against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

Sabres: Wrap up a two-game road trip Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024. 

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