MONTREAL (AP)—The Buffalo Sabres took full advantage of a big power-play chance in overtime after blowing a late lead in regulation.
Maxim Afinogenov scored his second power-play goal of the game on a 5-on-3 man advantage 30 seconds into the extra period to give Buffalo a 3-2 victory over Montreal on Tuesday night, the Sabres’ sixth straight win.
Montreal tied it with 3:36 left in the third on Alex Kovalev’s breakaway. Kovalev hustled down the right side to catch up with the puck and cut across the slot before beating goalie Ryan Miller with a wrist shot over his right shoulder.
Kovalev played a part as Montreal put the puck in the net on a power play with 1:21 remaining in the third but referee Don Koharski immediately waved off the goal. Video replays showed the puck struck Canadiens forward Michael Ryder and went into the net off his jersey as he drove the crease after Miller made a stick save off Kovalev.
“Our guys upstairs said right away that it looked like he punched it in but I still think you have to sweat it out because you never know what’s going to happen,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.
“We played a pretty good game,” said Afinogenov, who put a loose puck into the net off Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet from a sharp angle for the winner.
“We were up 2-1 and that was a good play by Kovalev when he scored. Those were two surprise penalties for us at the end because I thought there was nothing there, but the ref called two penalties.”
Derek Roy also scored for Buffalo, and Miller made 30 saves.
Miller, selected to the U.S. Olympic team’s taxi squad Monday, has started each game during the streak. He’s 13-3 with a 1.80 goals-against-average since returning from a broken right thumb on Dec. 19, allowing three goals or less in 15 of 16 starts.
“It feels good to be recognized as a potential athlete, we’ll see how it turns out,” said Miller, who will only go to Turin if one of the U.S. team’s three goalies is injured. “There’s still another week and there’s some time during the games where I could head over there and I’d be thrilled to do it, but I’m just going to concentrate on the next three games and a little break, and if the Olympics comes up, I’ll be happy.”
Roy scored off a deflection with 6 seconds remaining in the second to put Buffalo ahead 2-1 after the two teams traded goals earlier in the period.
The Sabres, second in the Northeast Division with 73 points, have won 23 of 29 games (23-6-3) since getting off to an 8-9-0 start.
Chris Higgins scored a short-handed goal for Montreal, which had a pair of shutout wins over Boston and Philadelphia over the weekend.
Canadiens backup Cristobal Huet, who was in goal for both shutouts, had gone 173 minutes, 19 seconds without allowing a goal before Afinogenov scored on a power play 5:43 into the second. Huet made his fourth consecutive start since he relieved starter Jose Theodore in three of Montreal’s previous four games.
“We’re not happy with the point, but we’ll take it,” Huet said.
Higgins teamed up with fellow Canadiens rookie Tomas Plekanec for a spectacular short-handed goal at 10:11 that tied it at 1. Plekanec drove down the right side and held on to the puck before flipping it past defenseman Jason Pominville to Higgins, who put a shot over a sprawling Miller into the top of the net to complete the 2-on-1.
“It was a great pass,” Higgins said. “I just called for it at the end, he took a look up and saw me, and I had the top of the net open and I put it in there.”
Miller is 19-7-0 overall this season. … The Sabres had a season-high seven-game winning streak from Dec. 4-19. … Buffalo has allowed 11 short-handed goals this season, including eight in 27 road games. … Higgins has two of Montreal’s seven short-handed goals this season. … Montreal has sold out each of its 26 home games.