BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - The Montreal Canadiens used to fold at the first sign of adversity. Not any longer.
Shaking off a late game-tying goal and news that goaltender Jose Theodore tested positive for a banned substance, Alex Kovalev scored 39 seconds into overtime, lifting the Canadiens to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
It was Kovalev's second goal of the game and allowed Montreal to improve to 3-0-1 in its last four - the string coming after the Canadiens (26-22-7) lost 13 of 19 games and fallen out of playoff contention.
"You can't let down," Kovalev said. "The confidence is coming back and that's nice to see."
The Sabres had a six-game win streak snapped and also lost forward Jochen Hecht, who will miss at least two weeks with a sprained knee. The injury will also force Hecht - a member of the German national team - to miss the Turin Olympics.
Hecht, who scored the Sabres' first goal, was hurt after being checked by Montreal's Jan Bulis midway through the third period. Bulis broke up a scoring chance, upending Hecht, who failed to get a shot off while set up to the left of the net.
Radek Bonk, with a short-handed goal, also scored for Montreal, which split the home-and-away series after a 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo on Tuesday.
Andrei Markov smartly set up the winner. Taking the puck inside the blue line, Markov drew Sabres defenders to the left circle before sending a nifty pass across to a wide open Kovalev.
Kovalev waited for goalie Ryan Miller to come across before snapping a shot inside the far post.
"I knew I was going to have time when he gave it to me," Kovalev said, describing the goal. "I was trying to be patient because it looked like he was going to dive for maybe a one-timer."
The Sabres lost their fourth home game since Dec. 2 and blew a chance to match a season-high seven-game win streak.
Bonk's goal, which put Montreal up 2-1 late in the second period, was the one that disturbed Sabres coach Lindy Ruff the most.
It came after Steve Begin stripped Pominville of the puck and after Miller stopped Begin on a partial breakaway. Bonk got to the rebound and flipped it over the fallen goalie.
"He shouldn't have to make a second save. They shouldn't have another opportunity," Ruff said. "I'm more upset about the people who didn't come back."
It marked the second straight game in which Buffalo has allowed a short-handed goal. The team has given up 12 this season, tied with Washington for the most in the NHL.
Cristobal Huet stopped 26 shots, improving to 3-1-1 in his last five starts.
Theodore, who wasn't scheduled to start, watched the game from the bench. Theodore was the center of attention after Canadiens doctor David Mulder announced in Montreal that the goalie tested positive for a banned substance in pre-Olympic testing. Mulder said the test was the result of Theodore taking Propecia, a hair-growth stimulant, which is also considered a masking agent for a performance-enhancing steroid.
Theodore was unfazed by the announcement, saying he took Propecia for more than eight years to preserve his full head of hair, and had never tested positive before despite competing in several international tournaments.
"I don't feel I have anything to hide," Theodore said. "It's not something that I got on the black market. It was a prescription from the doctor for eight years, so I don't feel uncomfortable by anything."
Theodore wasn't chosen to represent Canada at the Olympics but was on the team's 81-man eligibility list. The test doesn't affect Theodore's NHL status.
Notes: Canadiens LW Richard Zednik didn't travel to Buffalo because of the flu. ... It was the Sabres' first overtime loss of the season, dropping them to 5-1. ... The Canadiens tied the season series at 3-3, with five of those games decided by 3-2 scores, including the last three in overtime.
|PPG - Jochen Hecht (15) ASST: Thomas Vanek (18), Brian Campbell (21)|
1 - 0 BUF
|Alex Kovalev (13) ASST: Mike Ribeiro (24), Francis Bouillon (14)|
1 - 1 Tie
|SHG - Radek Bonk (2) ASST: Steve Begin (9)|
2 - 1 MTL
|Jason Pominville (13) ASST: Ales Kotalik (21), Maxim Afinogenov (24)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Alex Kovalev (14) ASST: Andrei Markov (25), Mike Ribeiro (25)|
3 - 2 MTL
|Jochen Hecht Hi-sticking against Andrei Markov|
|Francis Bouillon Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Saku Koivu Holding against Ales Kotalik|
|Francis Bouillon Delay of game|
|Jay McKee Interference against Niklas Sundstrom|
|Taylor Pyatt Tripping against Jan Bulis|
|Tomas Plekanec Hooking against Jochen Hecht|
|Paul Gaustad Roughing against Aaron Downey|
|Aaron Downey Interference against Paul Gaustad|