MONTREAL - Coach Guy Carbonneau showed some faith in his starting goaltender after a bad outing and Cristobal Huet responded with a dominant performance.
Huet made 29 saves for his first shutout of the season while Tomas Plekanec got the game-winner in the second period as the Montreal Canadiens blanked the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 on Monday night.
The French goaltender had let in two soft ones in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night, including the winner with less than two minutes to play on a 30-foot shot by Matt Stajan.
"I felt pretty bad after the Toronto game and I wanted to come back strong and so did the team," said Huet after his 14th career shutout. "We wanted to earn two points against a good team.
"The coach had the confidence in me to put me back in the net, so I had to play well and help the team. And guys played well in front of me. We didn't have a lot of shots against in the last five minutes. It shows we can play very well defensively when the score is tight."
Bryan Smolinski added an empty-net goal with 38 seconds left to play for Montreal (8-3-3), which has won six of its last eight games, including a pair of wins at home over the Sabres.
Ryan Miller faced 18 shots for Buffalo (5-7-1), which was shut out for the second time this year after not being shut out at all last season. The Sabres have lost two in a row.
The Sabres also came away banged up, as centre Adam Mair left early in the second period with a twisted ankle. Coach Lindy Ruff said "it looks like he'll be out for a little while."
Tim Connolly, who absorbed a crushing hit from Mathieu Dandenault in the final minute that sent Paul Gaustad into a rage that earned him a misconduct, had his back tighten up during the game, Ruff added.
Otherwise, the Sabres were pleased with their effort despite the loss.
"There's a lot to like about this game, but we didn't win," said Ruff. "Their goaltender played about as well as we've seen from him."
The Canadiens sat on their lead in the third period, but Huet needed to be sharp on quick shots from close range by Derek Roy, Daniel Paille and Thomas Vanek to preserve the win.
"All the credit to Cristobal Huet - he played a great game and made huge saves for that team," said Roy.
Carbonneau had been leaning toward giving rookie Carey Price the start against Buffalo, but after the Toronto game, he said "I felt it was important for Cristobal to get back in the net.
"When I made that decision, there were a lot of skeptics, but it's always nice when your decision in the right one."
For the third time in four games on a homestand, the Canadiens came out flat and were outshot 9-1 in the opening 12 minutes as the Sabres shot from all angles and then went hunting for rebounds.
Coach Guy Carbonneau dropped Guillaume Latendresse to the third line and promoted Andrei Kostitsyn after Latendresse passed up a shot alone in front of the Buffalo net. The coach said later it was because Latendresse tweaked his back during the pre-game warm-up.
Still, the move paid off when Kostitsyn motored down the right side and fed Plekanec driving to the net. The Czech centre made a move to the backhand and slid the puck past Miller at 13:04 of the second period.
"I thought we were better than Montreal in a lot of aspects, but Huet came up big for them," said Miller. "We can't be too mad. Hopefully, the guys won't take this one too hard. We played a heck of a game."
The Canadiens' league-leading power play went 0-for-2 to end a nine-game streak with at least one goal with the man advantage.
Montreal concluded a four-game homestand (1-1-1) and now embark on a four-game road trip beginning Thursday in Boston continues Saturday in Ottawa.
Notes - Price, who played in only four games, was named Canadiens player of the month for October. . . . Francis Bouillon sat out a fourth game with a shoulder bruise, while Mikhail Grabovsky was a healthy scratch for Montreal. . . . Jaroslav Spacek has a shoulder injury and has missed seven of the last eight games, while Dmitri Kalinin sat out a fifth game with a knee injury for Buffalo.