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Canadiens stay perfect by routing Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The Montreal Canadiens remained perfect and made some history in the process.

The Canadiens became the second team in NHL history and the first in 40 years to start the season with eight consecutive regulation victories by routing the Buffalo Sabres 7-2 at First Niagara Center on Friday.

Defenseman Andrei Markov had a goal and four assists, and forwards Brendan Gallagher and Dale Weise each scored twice for the Canadiens, the first team to start its season with eight regulation wins since the Sabres did it to begin the 1975-76 season.

"It's always good to win," Gallagher said. "We just have a one-game-at-a-time mentality. It won't change. Take this for what it is, we have another game [Saturday] night and we move on to that one."

The Canadiens are two victories shy of the NHL record of 10 consecutive wins to start a season. The 2006-07 Sabres and 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs each started 10-0-0, but the Sabres had three shootout wins during their streak and Toronto's eighth victory came in overtime.

The Maple Leafs come to Bell Centre on Saturday.

"We're just focusing on Toronto now," said P.K. Subban, Markov's defense partner. "For us, we can't focus on those things."

Markov's first assist came on Torrey Mitchell's go-ahead goal at 13:31 of the second period. He scored his first goal of the season at 18:22, when his power-play slap shot beat Chad Johnson after Tomas Plekanec won a faceoff. Markov had the secondary assist on Gallagher's power-play goal 27 seconds into the third period and the primary assist on goals by Max Pacioretty at 11:11 and Weise at 16:23.

"He played a great hockey game," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Him and P.K., they control the game. They were solid defensively, really effective offensively. That was a hell of a performance by those two."

Markov's assist on Pacioretty's sixth goal of the season was his 500th career point. His five-point game gave him 501 points for his career.

"It's a pretty undercover 500 points," Gallagher said. "He's pretty special, year after year. He's so poised with the puck. He understands the game so well. It's no every day that you get to see a guy put up 500 points."

Plekanec and Subban each had three assists and backup goaltender Mike Condon made 34 saves for Montreal, which can become the first team in NHL history to start its season with nine consecutive regulation wins by beating Toronto in 60 minutes.

"It's another challenge tomorrow and we realize that," Subban said. "With every game, it's only going to get tougher for us regardless of what our record is and what the schedule is. Every team is looking at us as hopefully one of the teams to beat in the league. We have to come out with the right mentality and I think we're learning that. It's fun. It's fun to play right now when guys are coming out and executing the game plan as well as we are right now."

Matt Moulson and Ryan O'Reilly had second-period goals for Buffalo, and Johnson made 19 saves. The Sabres (2-5-0) host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

"That's the great thing about hockey, that we've got an opportunity to come back and redeem ourselves tomorrow night," Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges said. "This loss [stinks], but we don't have time to sit and feel sorry for ourselves. We've got to park this tonight and we've got another tough match tomorrow night."

The Canadiens led 1-0 after one period on a goal by Weise at 14:35, and made it 2-0 when Gallagher whacked his own rebound past Johnson 45 seconds into the second.

"Both those goals were just around the net, finding pucks," Gallagher said. "Any time you score seven there's a lot of guys doing a lot of good things."

But the Sabres tied it on goals by Moulson at 4:49 and O'Reilly, whose power-play one-timer beat Condon at 11:04.

"I thought we had the start we wanted there," O'Reilly said. "We came out fast. I think they were a little slow off the start that we got momentum. But we've got to find consistency. We didn't keep it throughout the game. We left Johnson out to dry tonight. He stood on his head on his head all year for us. We have to be sharp."

Mitchell, a former Sabres forward, broke the tie 2:17 later with his third goal of the season when he tipped a slap shot by Subban past Johnson. Markov's goal made it 4-2 after two periods.

"I always compare [Markov], the way he sees the game and sees the ice, to a guy like Nicklas Lidstrom," Subban said. "They're very similar. They can go a whole night and maybe you don't see him out there and you look at the stat sheet, a plus player and a couple points and between 25-29 minutes. He's just happy to do his job quietly and that's something that I've tried to do. ... He had five points tonight but the way he played is the way he's going to continue to play every night."

Gallagher gave Montreal a three-goal lead when he put the rebound of Pacioretty's shot over Johnson's shoulder for his third of the season.

"It snowballs in the third period," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's disappointing, because I think we fought our way back in that game. Certainly, at that time we had some opportunities to go ahead and don't take them."

Pacioretty's goal made it 6-2 and Weise tipped Markov's point shot past Johnson for his third goal of the season. The Canadiens scored three goals each in the second and third period.

"Our group of forwards has been awesome all season long," Markov said. "They work hard, and it's nice to see that. We just have to support them back, and try to feed them."

Mitchell and linemate Brian Flynn played in their first game against the Sabres since they were traded to Montreal from Buffalo on March 2.

"We have a good team," Gallagher said. "We have a lot of confidence when we step on the ice. No matter what situation we're faced with we're going to find a way to come through with two points and we did that again tonight."

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