BUFFALO - The Canadiens will have to wait a little longer before officially punching their ticket to the playoffs following a 3-1 loss to the Sabres Wednesday night at HSBC Arena.
The Canadiens (41-29-9), who dropped only their second game in their last 11, failed to gain any ground on the Devils or pull further away from the eighth-ranked Lightning as Montreal remained at No. 7 with 91 points, four back of New Jersey and two ahead of Tampa Bay. The Sabres (49-24-6) meanwhile strengthened their hold on the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference, while equaling their franchise record of 49 wins set back in 1974-75 by the famous French Connection of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert.
With the Canadiens trailing 2-0 after the opening frame, Sheldon Souray scored Montreal's lone goal at the 5:34 mark of the second period. After intercepting a Sabres clearing attempt, Souray wired a wrist shot past Ryan Miller for his 12th goal of the season. The 29-year-old now has seven goals since the Olympic break to lead all NHL defensemen.
Cristobal Huet had a busier night than his Sabres counterpart with the French-born netminder kicking aside 31-of-34 shots, in a game that saw Montreal get outshot by a 16-4 margin in the first period alone. Ryan Miller stopped 27-of-28 to improve to 28-14-3 on the year.
Scoring goals for the Sabres were Taylor Pyatt, Tim Connolly and Daniel Briere.
The Canadiens' power-play went 0-for-6, while the Sabres were 1-for-2 with the man advantage.
After being a healthy scratch for much of the season and having nights when he even dressed but never played a shift, surprise workhorse Mark Streit logged a total of 21:03, trailing only Souray (22:50) and Andrei Markov (23:50) for the team lead.
The Canadiens will end their final road trip of the season Thursday night in Boston, before heading back to the Bell Centre and hosting the Sabres Saturday.
NOTES : Niklas Sundstrom, Todd Simpson and Maxim Lapierre were healthy scratches, while Steve Begin (knee) and Francis Bouillon (ankle) remained sidelined. Radek Bonk made his return to the lineup after sitting out Monday's win over Ottawa with a leg injury.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com