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Lydman's shootout goal gives Sabres big win

by Brian Compton
When it comes to the shootout, consider defenseman Toni Lydman the Buffalo Sabres' secret weapon.

Lydman's wrister beat Carey Price in the sixth round as the desperate Sabres collected two much-needed points in a 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.

The win left Buffalo (37-30-8) in 10th place in the NHL Eastern Conference, but only four points behind Montreal (38-27-10), which holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres have won three in a row.

"The key was there was no move," Lydman said after helping the Sabres remain in the playoff race by scoring on the first shootout attempt of his career. "(Jaroslav) Spacek was yelling five-hole before I jumped on the ice. I decided to do it pretty early, and it worked."

Twenty-four hours after making a solid return against Toronto, Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was sharp once again. Miller, who missed 13 games due to a high ankle sprain, made 32 saves against the Canadiens and went 6-for-6 in the shootout.

"I think the guys are starting to enjoy these battles," Miller said. "I was a bit disappointed in the second period, so I wanted to be there for the boys and I'm glad I got my opportunity."

"The key was there was no move. (Jaroslav) Spacek was yelling five-hole before I jumped on the ice. I decided to do it pretty early, and it worked." -- Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows that if his team has any chance of reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's going to need more performances like the one Miller put forth on Saturday night. Miller made 33 saves on Friday in a 5-3 win against the Maple Leafs. Buffalo went 4-7-2 in Miller's absence.

''He had to be the difference by the time the end of the night came around,'' Ruff said. ''To do what he did in the shootout, that's a big point for us.''

Buffalo broke a scoreless tie when Adam Mair beat Price with 2:25 remaining in the opening period. With the teams at even strength, Mair redirected Jochen Hecht's shot past Price for his eighth goal of the season.

Tim Connolly put the Sabres up by a pair with a power-play goal at 2:36 of the second. After Roman Hamrlik was called for interference, Connolly capitalized on a Montreal turnover and ripped a shot past Price for an unassisted goal. It was Connolly's 17th of the season.

But the Canadiens roared back with three unanswered goals. Christopher Higgins got the comeback under way when he notched his 10th goal of the season at 7:58 of the second. Higgins, who missed significant time this season with an injury, took a pass from Mathieu Dandenault and ripped a high wrist shot from the left wing past Miller to make it 2-1.

Alex Kovalev got the first of his two goals just under five minutes later when he redirected Saku Koivu's backhand attempt past Miller for his 21st goal of the season. No. 22 came less than three minutes later as stopped a hard pass from Mathieu Schneider at the side of the net with his skate and slipped it inside the post for a 5-on-3 goal as Montreal grabbed a 3-2 lead.

"You could say we gave up a lead in the third period or that we came back after we were behind 2-0," Montreal coach Bob Gainey said. "It was a good game. Both teams had a lot riding on it. It was a like a playoff game. We came here fully committed to taking two points, but we didn't so we can't be satisfied. But we gained a point on the team ahead of us (the New York Rangers), so we can exhale."

The score would stay that way until Clarke MacArthur tied the game 3:58 into the third. MacArthur, who now has 15 goals this season, took a pass from Jason Pominville and ripped it into an open net to make it 3-3. With the assist, Pominville has 10 points in his last six games. Buffalo outshot Montreal 16-7 in the third period.

"Our team was a little nervous in the third," Gainey said. "We didn't move the puck with the same confidence. Price had to keep us in there. And he gave us a chance to win in the shootout."

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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