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Canadiens beat Sabres for fourth straight win

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO - David Desharnais' revival continued Wednesday night.

Desharnais' power-play goal at 13:44 of the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 at First Niagara Center. He deflected P.K. Subban's shot from the point to beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to make it 2-0 and help the Canadiens extend their winning streak to four games.

After managing one assist in his first 19 games, Desharnais has two goals and five points during his team's four-game winning streak.

"In the last two weeks he's playing well," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said of Desharnais. "He's competing to the puck, he's working hard on both sides of the ice. It's not a coincidence that he's got success. He's working really hard."

The loss was the fifth in a row for the Sabres, who are last in the overall standings with 11 points.

Sabres captain Steve Ott was cut by a high stick 7:54 into the game. Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk was assessed a double-minor for high sticking, but the Sabres didn't score on the power play. Ott returned later in the period.

"I barely felt it to be honest with you," Ott said. "It sliced me so quick and so easy between the eyes."

Galchenyuk scored his sixth goal of the season to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead at 17:21. Andrei Markov's shot from a Lars Eller pass deflected off Galchenyuk and went past Miller.

Markov assisted on all three Montreal goals.

"He's a big part of group, there's no question about that," goalie Carey Price said of Markov. "He's a strong, silent type but he definitely brings that experience and that leadership to our locker room and he's a big part of our power play and he plays very strong defensively."

After Desharnais' goal gave Montreal a two-goal lead, Matt Moulson cut the deficit back to one when he scored his ninth goal of the season at 17:30. Drew Stafford set the play up after he stole the puck from Subban and found Moulson alone in front for a one-timer that beat Carey Price.

It was Moulson's first goal since he scored two in his debut with the Sabres on Oct. 28, one day after being acquired from the New York Islanders. The three-time 30-goal scorer had gone 11 games without scoring.

"I'm never happy after a loss," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "But I'm happy with the way we started competing."

A third-period fight between Sabres forward John Scott and Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray left Murray with a cut to his forehead. Murray needed stitches to close the cut, but returned late in the game.

"Douglas Murray is a strong man," Therrien said. "He was sticking up for his teammates tonight. It takes a lot of courage to do that against one of the toughest guys in the NHL."

Brendan Gallagher added a power-play goal with 1:44 to play in the third for the Canadiens, his ninth goal of the season. The Canadiens finished 2-for-4 with the man advantage.

"Special teams were big, especially on the road," Gallagher said. "If you can get power-play goals and kill off penalties in the other team's building, it's huge for your momentum. It gives you energy on the bench and I think that was big for us."

Gallagher, a Calder Trophy finalist last season, continues to impress Therrien.

"Whether we're at home or on the road, he's not going to change his style," Therrien said of Gallagher. "He's got a lot of courage, he goes to those dirty areas. He's getting rewarded for his hard work."

The Canadiens have had 12 players score a power-play goal this season. They also have the league's best road power play, scoring on 31.0 percent of its opportunities.

"We've got three lines we can put out there that can score," Therrien said. "The way we decide who is going to go on the ice is the one that's having success that night and playing well, we're going to put those guys in. That's been our philosophy for the past year."

Price stopped 24 shots for the Canadiens. Miller made 28 saves.

"We got a good road win," Murray said. "It's not always easy to have success. We have to keep it up. We were a little sloppy at times, but we got the job done and got two points and that's all that matters."

The Canadiens continue on the road to face the Washington Capitals on Friday night. The Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday. Buffalo beat Toronto in Nolan's debut as coach on Nov. 15 but hasn't won since.

Despite five consecutive losses and a League-worst 5-20-1 record, Nolan feels progress is being made.

"The one thing we asked our team to do is compete, and we competed," Nolan said. "When things are difficult, it's easy to point fingers. But this group is really starting to pay attention. We're making strides in the right direction."

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