BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff thinks the Sabres can win their final six games of the season. They might just have to in order to make the playoffs.
Buffalo closed the gap to six points on the New York Islanders in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I liked every aspect of our game,” Ruff said. “We want to play each game very well and get points.”
But the Sabres’ postseason hopes continue to be slim at best. If the Islanders play .500 hockey in their final six games, the Sabres have to win their last six contests to qualify for the postseason.
Still, Wednesday’s victory gave the Sabres plenty of hope.
“Absolutely,” said Mair when asked if his team has enough in the tank to overtake the Islanders. “Right now we’re focused on a game-by-game basis rather than lumping all the games together.”
The Sabres were helped by a strong effort in goal by Martin Biron, who missed out on his second shutout of the season when Michael Ryder scored his 24th goal with a backhander from the left circle with under six minutes to go.
“It’s a game where you have to make some big saves,” Biron said. “Right now we have to do whatever we need to do to get into the playoffs.”
Montreal failed in their bid to qualify for the postseason for the second time in six years. The Canadiens need just one point in their next five games to secure a playoff berth.
Montreal is in seventh place in the East, two points behind the New Jersey Devils.
“I think we were a little sluggish,” Ryder said. “After we scored we realized we had a chance to get a point out of it. If we would have pushed a little more early in the game it would have been a different story.”
Dumont gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 6:07 of the second period with his 20th goal. After corralling a pass from Daniel Briere in the left circle, Dumont’s hard wrist shot went into the top right corner.
Less than four minutes later, Mair made it 2-0 with his sixth goal. Standing in front of the Montreal net, Mair blocked defenseman Jeff Jillson’s shot from the right point. The puck dropped right onto Mair’s stick, and he quickly turned around and fired a shot that beat Mathieu Garon along the ice.
Biron finished with 24 saves for Buffalo, who have points in seven of eight games (4-1-0-3).
“To me, I think we missed a lot of chances,” Biron said. “But I still think we played really well.”
The Canadiens went down with a flurry of shots in the final five minutes. Some were able to get through to Biron, while others were blocked by defenders, who were diving to stop pucks at every opportunity.
“Guys were really playing hard in front of me,” Biron said.
Garon made 31 saves in starting for the fourth time in eight games.
“I thought both goalies played really well,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said. “I just thought our second period wasn’t that good, and that ended costing us the hockey games.”
Buffalo continued its dominance of Montreal at home, winning for the seventh straight time since losing 5-2 on Oct. 26, 2001.
“They have built a reputation of playing tough at home,” Julien said. “We’ve lost quite a few games here over the years.”
The Sabres will no doubt be intently watching the Islanders game in Philadelphia on Thursday, knowing they have little room for error.
“All you can do is win your games,” Biron said.
Montreal lost in regulation for just the second time in 15 games (11-2-1-1). … Garon is 1-2-1 in his last four starts. … Biron has made 10 starts in the Sabres’ last 11 games. … The Canadiens were without D Patrice Brisebois (groin) and C Joe Juneau (flu). … Former players Pat LaFontaine and Mike Foligno were among six players chosen for induction into the Sabres Hallof Fame.