BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—The Buffalo Sabres knew they would break out of their scoring slump. They just didn’t know when.
Clarke MacArthur scored twice and Ryan Miller made 36 saves to give the Sabres a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night. Buffalo won for only the second time in its past seven games after coming into the game having scored only five goals in its past five games.
“Everybody knew that we were due for one of those,” said forward Drew Stafford, who scored one of the Sabres’ three first-period goals. “We have the talent and the skill for that. Guys can score.”
At least they could for one night. Buffalo, the highest-scoring team in the league last season, hadn’t scored four times in regulation since a 4-2 win over Florida on Oct. 26. That was also the last time they held a lead in regulation in a game, a span that had grown to 487 minutes, 59 minutes until MacArthur gave Buffalo a 1-0 advantage 8 minutes in.
MacArthur recorded his first multi-goal game of his career with his third goal of the season in the second period.
“It’s such a great feeling to get a big win like that,” he said. “We want to keep this going. It makes life a lot easier around here.”
The Sabres had outshot their past seven opponents, but were just 1-5-1 in the span. On Friday they were the ones being outshot, but unlike the past, they were able to convert on their scoring opportunities.
“The biggest thing was at least we were getting chances,” MacArthur said. “When you’re not getting chances that’s when you worry.”
Daniel Paille also scored for the Sabres, who moved out of a tie with Washington for last place in the league.
“It sure was taking a while, and it was tough,” Stafford said.
Michael Ryder scored for Montreal, which lost for the second time in three games. The Canadiens wrapped up their four-game road trip with a 2-2 record, and lost for the first time in three games against the Sabres this season.
Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet, making his fifth start in the past seven games, finished with 24 saves.
“They were a desperate team,” he said. “They were hungrier on the puck in the first, and that’s a sign of a team that needs to win desperately.”
MacArthur made it 1-0 when he banged home a rebound past Huet, and Buffalo pushed the lead to 2-0 when Paille deflected defenseman Nolan Pratt’s shot from the left point at 12:19 of the first.
Stafford made it 3-0 a few minutes later after Thomas Vanek’s pass from the right circle ricocheted off Stafford’s skate and into the net. After a brief video review, the goal was upheld.
Montreal cut the deficit to 3-1 on Ryder’s third of the season 2 minutes into the second, but Buffalo regained its three-goal cushion on MacArthur’s second of the game at 6:45.
“We knew they would start the game hard and we didn’t react to it,” Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. “The harder we tried, the deeper we got into a hole.”
Miller, making his sixth consecutive start, helped preserve the lead by making 18 saves in the second period. He was also helped when Guillaume Latendresse hit the post on a quick wrist shot midway through the period.
“The guys got rewarded tonight for stuff they’ve been doing for a while,” Miler said. “We’ve had some strong games, and this was a good step forward. Hopefully it starts the guys feeling good and knowing their effort can pay off.”
Vanek had two assists to snap a five-game pointless streak. … Buffalo began a three-game homestand. … These two teams will meet a total of three times over nine days. … Carbonneau coached his 100th game with Montreal. … The Sabres don’t play again until Wednesday when they host league-leading Ottawa. … Huet played his 14th game against Buffalo, the most against any opponent he’s faced.