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Habs keep Sabres winless at home with 3-2 victory

by John Kreiser
The Buffalo Sabres still can't find a way to win at home.

The Sabres fell to 0-6-1 at HSBC Arena when Benoit Pouliot's second goal of the game broke a tie and gave the Montreal Canadiens a 3-2 victory on Friday night.

Jeff Halpern had a goal and a pair of assists and Carey Price stopped 29 shots as Montreal snapped a two-game slide and improved to 8-4-1 despite playing without top scorer Tomas Plekanec, who was scratched with flu-like symptoms.

Pouliot more than picked up the slack.

"I'm going to try and not talk to (Plekanec) for a while," Pouliot joked. "When your top line is missing one of the best forwards, other guys have to step up. Today we did, and maybe tomorrow someone else will."

Mike Grier had a goal and assist, Jordan Leopold also scored, and backup goalie Patrick Lalime, playing in place of injured starter Ryan Miller, made 29 saves for the Sabres, who fell to 3-9-2 overall. Miller sat out his second straight game and will miss a third when the Sabres visit Toronto on Saturday. They don’t come back home until Nov. 13.

Grier opened the scoring with his first goal of the season at 17:18 of the opening period, taking a pass from Tyler Ennis in the lower right circle, pulling the puck to his backhand, and sliding it past Price as he cut across the front of the net.

But the Canadiens tied it 1:22 later when Halpern snapped a shot from the slot past Lalime.

Buffalo regained the lead 9:02 into the second when Leopold swatted home a loose puck during a scramble. That lead lasted just 46 seconds before Pouliot pushed home a backhander from in tight. He put Montreal ahead for the first time at 17:12 with a blast from the left circle that beat Lalime to the short side -- a shot coach Lindy Ruff felt his goaltender should have stopped.

"If we're going to get out of this, we need that one," Ruff said. "We need that one."

Price preserved the win with a third-period stop on Ennis partial breakaway.

"Our guys did a great job on that," Price said. "Anything I left out or anything that squirted out, our guys came back hard."

Lalime finished with 29 saves for the Sabres.

"It's frustrating when you're losing games," Grier said. "You're in it to win, and we all take pride in being professionals. We think we're a good team, but right now we're shooting ourselves in the foot."

Panthers 7, Hurricanes 4HIGHLIGHTS

Florida hit the 50-shot mark for the second time in three nights, but fared better this time as Stephen Weiss scored twice and Chris Higgins got the go-ahead goal to help the Panthers win the opener of a home-and-home series.

The Panthers set a team record with 55 shots in Wednesday's 4-3 home loss to Atlanta, but had considerably more success against the 'Canes and Cam Ward, who made 43 saves.

"Our best players were our best players," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "I thought Weiss was outstanding, I thought Higgins had a real good game for us.

"It definitely wasn't an easy night behind the bench -- it seemed like four games in one -- but we got the right result."

After each team scored three times in a first period that saw DeBoer pull starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun 10:29 into the game, Higgins made it 4-3 with 3:17 left in the second period when he took a centering pass from Radek Dvorak and beat Ward to the stick side with a wrist shot that caromed off the post.

"I think we carried the play pretty much the whole game, but in the first period we had a couple of breakdowns," Higgins said. "We played a lot in their end, and they seemed a little tired tonight. We put up a lot of shots and they went in for us tonight."

Marty Reasoner increased the lead to 5-3 at 2:26 of the third when he one-timed Dvorak's passout, but Sergei Samsonov cut the deficit to one goal at 4:47 when he tipped in Jay Harrison's point shot.

But the Hurricanes couldn't capitalize on a two-minute 5-on-3 advantage, and a goal by Michael Frolik with 2:47 left in regulation gave the Panthers some breathing room before Weiss hit the empty net.

"We weren't any good tonight, and we probably didn't deserve to win," said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, whose team will try to get even back at home on Saturday night. "It wasn't a well-played hockey game by either team, but they were better than we were."

Wild 2, Flames 1HIGHLIGHTS

The last thing the offensively-challenged Flames needed to see in the opener of a four-game trip was Niklas Backstrom. The Wild goaltender stopped 33 shots and made Martin Havlat's go-ahead goal in the third period stand up for the win, capping a 3-1-1 homestand while handing the Flames their fourth consecutive loss.

Havlat scored his first goal in 18 games dating back to March 29 of last season when he took a pass from Matt Cullen, kicked the puck to his stick and beat Miikka Kiprusoff at 4:20 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie.

"Finally went in, more important than that it helped win the game," Havlat said. "It doesn't matter who scored the goal. Most important is to get the 'W' at the end of the night. But, it's nice to get the feeling back again to score a goal."

The Wild, who struggle to score, need Havlat to begin producing.

"I hope that will be a start for him," coach Todd Richards said. "If we are going to have any success, Marty is going to have a very big role for us."

Backstrom made 12 of his saves in the third period, including an excellent stop on David Moss' deflection with just over 2 minutes to play, He improved to 6-3-2 this season. Kiprusoff stopped 21 shots.

Rene Bourque opened the scoring for Calgary at 10:45 of the first period when his shot from on top of the right circle beat Backstrom over the shoulder. But Cal Clutterbuck tied it at 15:30, converting Andrew Brunette's pass near the right post.

Nothing is going right for the Flames, who fell to 6-7-0.

"We need to get out of this," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "We need to find ways to win games, not find ways to lose games. Tonight, when you play as well as we did here tonight, we still found a way to lose it. So, there's a positive knowing that we did things well in a good portion of the game. But the negative is, we found a way to lose it. We've got to get on the other side of that again."

Stars 6, Coyotes 3HIGHLIGHTS

Dallas' six-game homestand ended a lot better than it started. Loui Eriksson had two of the Stars' four power-play goals and added two assists as they won their third in a row after dropping the first three games of their longest home stretch of the season.

Brad Richards also scored twice, Brenden Morrow scored his 200th NHL goal and Jamie Benn connected on the power play. Mike Ribeiro set up three goals.

"We're trying to shoot it more and we're finding ways to get in front of the net," said Eriksson, whose four points were a career high. "That's huge for us. We need the power play to work. We got a little frustrated, but we were able to get the power play working and that's why we won the game."

After Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington dropped the puck for the ceremonial faceoff, Eriksson's power-play deflection of Ribeiro's pass at 15:44 of the opening period put the Stars ahead to stay. Richards scored twice in a 1:59 span of the second period to give the Stars a 3-0 lead and send Ilya Bryzgalov to the bench.

"It's disappointing," coach Dave Tippett said of his team's play. "We got behind early and they got some breaks on some pucks that bounced off our guys and into the net, and we couldn't create the breaks ourselves. But when a team gets those breaks, they earn them and their group found a way to get it in the net."

Sami Lepisto got one goal back for the Coyotes at 13:34, but power-play goals by Eriksson and Benn in a 63-second span made it 5-1 after 40 minutes. Shane Doan and Lauri Korpikoski sandwiched third-period goals around Morrow's milestone marker.

"Our power play stuck with it," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "We had people around the net and when you do that, the rebounds fall to you. We did a good job of capitalizing."

Material from team media and wire services was used in this report

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