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Sabres continue playoff push with win at Montreal

The SportsXchange

MONTREAL -- The Buffalo Sabres' playoff hopes have come back to life with a run of confidence-boosting wins.

Thomas Vanek scored twice in the second, Ryan Miller made 38 saves, and Buffalo handed Montreal only its second regulation loss in 20 games with a 2-1 win over the Canadiens on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

The Sabres have won three in a row, including a 3-2 overtime win at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night. Buffalo, which is 4-1-1 in its last six games, has 30 points, two behind Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I don't think anybody should be comfortable with the position we're in but it's encouraging," Miller said. "I think guys just need to recognize what we need to do to win hockey games."

Vanek scored on a two-man advantage midway through the middle period. He put Buffalo up 2-0 with his second goal of the game late in the second.

"That's a good team over there," said Vanek, who was back in the lineup after missing Thursday's 5-4 shootout win over Toronto. "They just keep coming at you. They're a good puck possession team but I think we kept them outside. I think we could have played a little bit more offensively in the third, or done some damage ourselves, but in the end, it's a win so we'll take it."

Michael Ryder scored on a power play in the third to ruin Miller's shutout bid with 11:43 left. Montreal held a 39-18 advantage in shots, including 16-5 in the third.

"You know, (Miller) played a great game," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. "Obviously he's a high-caliber goalie but I don't think we were in his face enough tonight. We got a lot of rubber on him but we've got to make it difficult for him to see pucks and we've got to get those second and third opportunities."

Carey Price stopped 16 shots for the Canadiens, who lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (6-1-1). Montreal, which has 45 points, three behind Pittsburgh for the conference lead, failed to record a standings point for just the second time in 20 games (14-2-4).

"We played a pretty good game," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. "It was a tough break, the 5-on-3 goal, and then that late one in the second, that kind of takes that momentum away going into the third. I thought we grounded pretty good in the third but it's tough with the two-goal lead."

The Sabres took advantage of a lengthy two-man advantage midway through the second. Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban cleared the puck over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty 9:48 into the second with Mike Blunden off for interference.

Christian Ehrhoff drove a one-timer from the right point which Vanek tipped into the top left corner at 10:25 on the ensuing two-man advantage.

Vanek left midway through the second period of Tuesday night's game in Montreal after he was struck on the hip by Ehrhoff's point shot.

"It can't get any worse than what he did on Tuesday," Vanek said. "I think he took a little bit off, I got a good tip on it, and it was a goal we needed."

Vanek made it a two-goal lead late in the middle period. He scored his team-leading 16th goal at 19:21 when he cut across the goalmouth to put away Tyler Ennis' pass.

Ryder drew the Canadiens within one with his 10th goal 8:17 into the third when he redirected Andrei Markov's shot from the left point past Miller.

NOTES: As part of Hockey Night in Canada's 60th anniversary, longtime broadcasters Dick Irvin, Bob Cole, Gilles Tremblay and Claude Quenneville each dropped a puck for a pre-game ceremonial faceoff. ... Sabres right winger Drew Stafford was a healthy scratch. Stafford, who is pointless in his last three games, has three goals in his past 13 games. He has four goals and seven assists in 31 games this season. ... The Canadiens claimed veteran Jeff Halpern off waivers from the New York Rangers earlier Saturday. The 36-year-old center had one assist in 30 games with New York this season. He has 146 goals and 359 points in 891 NHL games, including 11 goals and 26 points in 72 games with Montreal in 2010-11. ... Canadiens left wing Travis Moen played his 600th game.
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