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Sabres 3, Canadiens 1 @NHLdotcom

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Crossing the Montreal blue line with a full head of steam, Buffalo's Daniel Briere looked up and knew exactly what he was going to do.

Turning flatfooted defender Sheldon Souray inside out, Briere then fooled goaltender Cristobal Huet to seal the Sabres' 3-1 win over the Canadiens on Wednesday night.

"I saw him standing still and saw his face go 'Oh shoot,"' Briere said, referring to Souray. "It was a tough play for him. And in his defense, there's not much he could've done. ... There's nothing better than winning games and scoring goals."

Briere's goal capped a big night for Buffalo (49-24-6), which tied a franchise record for victories set in 1974-75. Tim Connolly had a goal and assist, Maxim Afinogenov set up two goals and Taylor Pyatt also scored in helping the playoff-bound Sabres inch closer to securing fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

With three games left, Buffalo moved seven points ahead of idle Philadelphia in fifth.

Souray scored for Montreal, which remains three points from clinching back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since 1997 and 1998. The Canadiens, coming off a 3-2 win over Ottawa on Monday, are now 1-2 in their last three games since winning eight straight.

Blame Briere, who had fresh legs, the result of the Sabres' three-day break between games - their longest since the Olympic break in February.

"We could've scored a couple more," Briere said, smiling.

The play began when Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller cleared the puck to Connolly, who quickly hit Briere in full stride up the right wing.

Faking right, Briere cut into the middle catching Souray flatfooted. Driving in alone, Briere faked left and went right, jamming the puck in between the post and Huet's outstretched pad.

"It was certainly a treat to watch," Sabres defenseman Jay McKee said. "I'm glad I wasn't on the other end of that move."

Huet, understandably, had a different opinion.

"That's sad because I'm going to be on the highlights," Huet said. "But that was a great move and definitely a killer for us."

The Sabres took control in the first period, scoring twice and outshooting the Canadiens 16-4.

Souray's goal 5 minutes into second gave the Canadiens some hope. Montreal outshot Buffalo 15-10 in the third period but failed to take advantage of six power-play opportunities, all coming in the final 31 minutes of play.

"I thought the first 20 minutes we played bad, but after that we evened it up," Montreal captain Saku Koivu said. "They're all really important games right now. We need points to secure a playoff spot."

The Canadiens, who have three games left, play at Boston on Thursday.

The Sabres have suddenly regained their stride, going 4-1 in their last five since ending a 1-7-1 slump.

Tying a franchise record for victories was special, particularly for a team with a relative no-name roster that wasn't expected to do much when the season began.

"For a team that a lot of the so-called hockey experts had pegged to be among the two- or three-worst, the guys have a lot to be proud of," McKee said. "But we're not looking at records or stuff like that. We're focused right now on continuing this kind of play to carry over into the playoffs."

Miller stopped 27 shots to win consecutive starts for the first time since March 14-16.

Afinogenov was the best player in the first period, setting up both goals.

The prettiest play came when, from the right point, he slid a perfect pass to Toni Lydman in the far circle, creating a 2-on-1 down low. Lydman then flipped a pass into the slot where Connolly snapped it into the open side to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead late in the period.

Notes: Sabres C Adam Mair missed his second straight game because of suspected concussion-related problems. Mair is scheduled to be evaluated by a specialist in Pittsburgh on Thursday. ... Canadiens' C Radek Bonk returned after missing one game with a leg injury. ... Sabres D Teppo Numminen returned for Buffalo after missing six games with a sprained knee.

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