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game recap

Niemi gets first shutout for Canadiens in win against Sabres

Montreal ends four-game losing streak

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Antti Niemi made 35 saves for the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday.

Niemi got his first shutout since Dec. 22, 2015 and his first with Montreal. He has 36 in the NHL.

"When you look at how his season started and coming to us and obviously playing so well, there's no doubt he's been a real positive for our hockey club and it's been positive for him as well," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "Tonight's shutout, he earned it."

 

[WATCH: All Canadiens vs. Sabres highlights]

 

Niemi was claimed on waivers by the Canadiens from the Florida Panthers on Nov. 14. He started the season with the Pittsburgh Penguins before he was put on waivers and claimed by Florida on Oct. 24.

"I'm really happy for [Niemi]," Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen said. "He has been unreal for us for a long time now; he's been really playing great. Today was a really good example of how hard he competes and what kind of goalie he is. I'm really happy for him."

Video: Niemi earns Friday's Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout

Lehkonen, Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher scored for the Canadiens (27-36-12), who ended a four-game losing streak.

The Sabres and Canadiens have been eliminated from contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's always good to win on the road," Julien said. "And we know the circumstances. There's two teams here playing each other that are out of the playoffs. A lot of it is for honor. A lot of it is for guys showing their professionalism and trying to keep jobs and fighting for jobs and all that stuff."

Linus Ullmark made 21 saves for the Sabres (23-39-12) who have lost three straight and five of the past six (1-4-1).

"We definitely beat ourselves tonight," Buffalo forward Ryan O'Reilly said. "They didn't do anything special. We missed the chances, didn't handle the puck as good as we wanted to tonight. I think all the guys felt the same, it's almost embarrassing. We could've at least made a game of it."

Lehkonen gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead at 4:56 of the second period when he scored on a rebound of a shot by Jacob de la Rose. Lehkonen has five goals in the past eight games after scoring five in his first 51.

Video: MTL@BUF: Ullmark denies Drouin, Byron in order

"You always want to get progress," Lehkonen said. "Now the bounces are going my way, so that's a good thing."

The Sabres had an opportunity to tie the game with 1:06 of 5-on-3 power-play time in the third period when Nikita Scherbak (5:58) and Lehkonen (6:53) were each called for tripping, but Buffalo got two shots on goal during the two-man advantage.

"If you look at the percentages, the teams that score on their 5-on-3s usually have good success," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "That was a perfect time for us. Lack of execution, lack of sticking with the game plan as far as what we're looking for at 5-on-3. Some guys like to put things in their own hands and think that's going to work. Well, it hasn't."

Byron scored an empty-net goal with 1:15 remaining in the third period to make it 2-0, and Gallagher scored into an empty net with 44 seconds left for a 3-0 lead.

 

Goal of the game

Lehkonen's goal at 4:56 of the second period.

Video: MTL@BUF: Lehkonen pots rebound past Ullmark

 

Save of the game

Niemi's save against Kyle Okposo at 14:57 of the third period.

Video: MTL@BUF: Niemi turns away Okposo's redirection try

 

Highlight of the game

Ullmark's save against Byron at 10:54 of the second period.

Video: MTL@BUF: Ullmark lunges to stop Byron's tip-in

 

They said it

"I was lucky I had the puck at the end of the game and I asked him if he wanted it. Some goalies like that and he told me [it was his first shutout since 2015] and I was like, it's hard to believe as good of a goalie as he is for that to be the case. It's nice to be a part of it and nice to be there for him to get it. It's just good for this team to have a game where we can get pucks out of the net like that." -- Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner on Antti Niemi's first shutout with Montreal

 

"Even though it's a 1-0 game, there's still plenty of time to go in the game, and again we're forcing things that aren't there and we fed it to them. It wasn't anything that Montreal did, it's what we didn't do once again. I think it's about time our leadership group stood up now. I challenged them yesterday; definitely wasn't the response I was looking for." -- Sabres coach Phil Housley

 

Need to know

The Canadiens ended a seven-game road losing streak (0-5-2). … Montreal swept the season series (Buffalo 0-2-2). … Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons returned after missing the past two games with an undisclosed injury. He had five hits in 17:36.

 

What's next

Canadiens: Host the Washington Capitals on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS, NBCSWA, NHL.TV)

Sabres: At the New York Rangers on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, MSG-B, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Niemi leads Habs to 3-0 shutout win against Sabres

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