BUFFALO - The Canadiens could have let this one get away, but Alex Kovalev had other plans, scoring a pair of goals, including the overtime winner in a 3-2 victory over the Sabres Thursday at HSBC Arena.
Despite seeing the Sabres force overtime with just 0:27 remaining in regulation, Kovalev wasted no time in beating Ryan Miller for the game-winner, only 39 seconds into the extra frame. The Canadiens (26-22-7), who had not savored a victory in Buffalo in four years prior to this season, picked up their second win on the Sabres' home-ice of 2005-06. With 59 points, the Canadiens are now deadlocked with the Maple Leafs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Kovalev, who beat Miller up-high with a wrist shot at the 5:02 mark of the second period, solved the Sabres netminder with another wicked wrist shot in overtime to extend his point streak to four games (3-3-6). The Russian sniper now has five goals in four games against the Sabres this season.
Mike Ribeiro celebrated his 250th NHL game by notching a pair of assists, as he helped set-up each of Kovalev's goals after also preparing his Russian linemate's goal against the Sabres Tuesday at the Bell Centre.
With the Canadiens playing shorthanded, Radek Bonk snapped a 13-game goal drought when he banged home a rebound of a Steve Begin shot for the Czech centerman's second goal of the season. With his assist, Begin reached the 20-point mark for the first time in his seven-year NHL career.
In his fifth consecutive start, Huet turned aside 26 of 28 shots to hand the Sabres their first overtime loss of 2005-06. On his way to earning his sixth win of the season, Huet also got his revenge against Miller, who earlier this week narrowly edged out Huet for NHL Defensive Player of the Week honors. Miller made 26 saves as he suffered only his fourth loss in 17 games since returning from injury on Dec. 19. Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville each scored goals for Buffalo (35-15-4).
The Canadiens, who prevented the Sabres from completing their first-ever sweep of a home-and-home series against Montreal, are now 7-0-1-0 after dropping the first half of a home-and-home versus Buffalo.
The Canadiens will play their final game before the two-week Olympic break Saturday night at the Bell Centre when they host the Atlanta Thrashers.
NOTES: Richard Zednik remained in Montreal as he recovered from the flu, while Mark Streit was a healthy scratch...Five of the six games between the Canadiens and Sabres have ended in a 3-2 final score...
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com