MONTREAL - After a week where the Montreal Canadiens felt they were the victims of bad luck, a fortunate bounce that helped break their three-game losing streak.
Roman Hamrlik was credited with the winner when his point shot pinballed its way into the net at 12:38 of the third period and the blue-liner also added two assists to lead the Canadiens to a 4-2 win Saturday over the Buffalo Sabres.
"It was definitely strange," said Habs winger Chris Higgins, who was originally credited with the winning goal that bounced off the glass and two Sabres players before going in. "But we created our own bounces tonight. We were skating well, we were moving the puck well and luck was finally on our side."
Kyle Chipchura scored his first career NHL goal and Bryan Smolinski got his first with the Canadiens (3-2-2) while Higgins iced it late with an empty-netter.
The victory was redemption for a team that gave up a one-goal lead with 10.2 seconds to play before losing in a shootout to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, then gave up the winning goal in the third period only 24 seconds after tying it up in a 4-3 loss in Ottawa on Thursday.
The same late-game drama looked to be unfolding against Buffalo when Alex Kovalev took a hooking penalty at 16:44 of the third, but head coach Guy Carbonneau was happy his team learned from its mistakes earlier in the week and killed the penalty.
"I think it shows the character of our club this year," he said. "With everything that happened this week, losing those games at the end, and then taking a penalty right at the end against Buffalo, everybody on the bench stayed positive. I think they were working extra hard to kill that one just because of that."
Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy scored nine seconds apart in the second period to account for all the scoring for the Sabres (3-4-0), who lost their second in a row following a three-game win streak.
Cristobal Huet was perfect in goal for the Canadiens apart from that nine-second lapse in the second, stopping 25 shots to allow another sellout crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre to enjoy their team's first home win of the season.
"The second one was a bit of a fluke," Huet said. "But they forecheck really hard and they feed on mistakes like that."
Ryan Miller, playing his second game in 24 hours, made 23 saves on 26 shots for the Sabres.
With Drew Stafford and Brian Campbell in the penalty box for Buffalo, Hamrlik's point shot bounced off the glass and to the side of the net, where it bounced off Toni Lydman's skate, then off Miller and in for his first of the season. The strange play survived a video review, and Hamrlik was only credited with the goal long after the game was over as it appeared Higgins batted at the puck with his stick.
"I saw the puck at (Lydman's) feet, I chopped at his feet and he fell over," Higgins said. "I thought I was going to get a penalty, actually, and I never saw it go in."
Higgins put the game away when he scored into an empty net from centre ice at 19:35.
The Sabres played Friday night at home and the Canadiens looked to have more jump as they got out to a quick lead on Smolinski's power-play goal at 2:34 of the first.
"The fact that they played last night definitely worked in our favour," Carbonneau said. "We knew that as the game moved along, we would get more chances to score."
Rookie Mikhail Grabovski entered the Buffalo zone and had the puck knocked off his stick to Hamrlik, whose point shot bounced off the end boards and out the other side to Smolinski for an easy tap-in goal.
"I think the league should look into the trampolines they installed here," Miller said, referring to the new boards at the Bell Centre. "It's unbelievable."
Grabovski's assist was his first career point in his eighth game, but his first playing on the left wing instead of his natural centre position.
"I wanted to see how he looked on the wing," Carbonneau said. "We like his speed and we like his hockey sense."
Buffalo quickly erased the lead in the second when Gaustad and Roy struck only nine seconds apart. Gaustad's goal came on the power play at 4:12, tipping in a Tim Connolly pass just as he was getting cross-checked by Hamrlik for his second of the year.
The puck was dumped in the Canadiens zone off the ensuing faceoff and a Saku Koivu pass bounced off Thomas Vanek behind the net in front to Roy, who made no mistake for his team-leading fifth of the year at 4:21.
Chipchura tied it up again at 7:10 of the second when his wrister from the side boards got past a screened Miller.
"I think you always feel the first one will be an end-to-end rush," Chipchura said. "But to get one, I guess you really don't care how it goes in."
Notes: The Sabres team record for fastest two goals in a game is four seconds, set when Lee Fogolin and Don Luce scored at 14:55 and 14:59 of the third period in a 6-1 win over the California Golden Seals on Oct. 17, 1974. The NHL record is three seconds, set by Jim Dowd and Richard Park of the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 21, 2004aCanadiens captain Saku Koivu was presented with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy prior to the game. The trophy honours the NHL player "who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community." Koivu was given the trophy by two kids fighting leukemia.