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Tokarski's first shutout helps Canadiens top Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Dustin Tokarski made the most of a rare start Sunday night.

Appearing in his 10th NHL game, Tokarski made 29 saves and earned his first shutout in the Montreal Canadiens' 2-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.

"It felt pretty good, I'm not going to lie," Tokarski said. "The main thing is the two points going down the stretch for this hockey team. Just a little icing on the cake with the shootout, I guess."

Tokarski got the start after No. 1 goalie Carey Price stayed back in Montreal following a 5-4 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

"The kid played well, he battles," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "He competes really hard, his technique is good and I certainly believe the team played well in front of him. We had some breakdowns and he made some key saves."

The win was Tokarski's second of the season; his first came in a 4-3 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks on March 5. He made 39 saves and stopped four shots in the six-round shootout.

"Every time I get a chance to go out there, I just have to do my best and try to help this team win," Tokarski said. "They've played great in both games I've been a part of."

Dale Weise got the Canadiens on the board at 14:41 of the first period with his fourth goal of the season. David Desharnais batted the puck towards the Buffalo goal, where it deflected off Weise's skate and past Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth. The play was reviewed to see if Weise kicked the puck in intentionally, but video review deemed he did not.

"That's the way we like to play our offense. We're not a fancy team," Therrien said. "We all understand that this time of year you've got to keep it simple, put pucks at the net and get the goals. Most of the time, this is how you're going to score goals. We've been doing that. This is how we made the comeback [Saturday] and we showed the guys how we score goals and tonight that was almost the same thing."

Brendan Gallagher made it 2-0 with his 17th goal of the season at 16:07 of the first. Gallagher fired a snap shot from the faceoff circle to the left of Enroth that caromed off Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and into the net.

"I think there are still areas to improve, but just getting back to the way we need to play to be successful," Gallagher said. "I thought we kept it simple. We didn't do things that were going to hurt ourselves or give them too many chances. There are still other areas we have to clean up, but it's a step in the right direction to getting back to playing the way we want to play."

Enroth's night came to an end in the second period when he sustained a lower-body injury. Enroth was hurt when Gallagher and Sabres defenseman Jamie McBain crashed into him. He was helped off the ice by the Sabres' trainer and was replaced by rookie goalie Nathan Lieuwen.

"He just started taking it to the net, so I put a stick on him, a body on him," McBain said. "Obviously, it's unfortunate when plays like that happen. It's one of those things where you're stuck behind a rock and a hard place. Obviously, you just can't let him go because he walks right in alone."

Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said Enroth wasn't cut by Gallagher’s skate in the collision, but the injury could keep him out a while.

"He'll be evaluated in the morning," Nolan said. "It doesn't look like it's going to be short-term."

Lieuwen was recalled by the Sabres on an emergency basis on Sunday afternoon to replace Michal Neuvirth, who sustained a lower-body injury during a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. It was Lieuwen's first appearance in the NHL.

"It felt like a dream," Lieuwen said. "I had to pinch myself. But once I got in there, I actually felt really good."

Lieuwen finished the game with 10 saves and made a big blocker save against Canadiens forward Thomas Vanek in the third period.

"One puck at a time," Lieuwen said. "I keep saying that a lot, but that's really been a success for me is just whatever happened on the last shot doesn't matter. It's the next shot and then the next shot. You don't go and make 30 saves one night. You make them one at a time."

For Vanek, it was his first game in Buffalo since being traded by the Sabres to the New York Islanders on Oct. 27. Vanek, who was traded to Montreal at the NHL Trade Deadline, was honored by the Sabres with a tribute video during a stoppage in the first period.

“It was great," Vanek said about being honored. "My previous experience when someone else came back, they didn't do much, so I didn't know what to expect. But I thought it was very nice and very classy of them."

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