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Determination Earns Second Win

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Two rules dominate the Buffalo Sabres locker room above almost anything else. Rule number one is try not to lose two games in a row and rule two is you are never allowed to quit on a game.

Both rules remained completely intact against the Montreal Canadiens, as Buffalo battled from a two-goal deficit with less than five minutes remaining in regulation to clinch a 5-4 shootout victory in the team's home opener on Friday night.

"[Coming back] helps the attitude of the team," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who made 23 saves in the win. "We just keep working at the things that make us a good team and we know that we have the weapons to come back."

"There were times when we really took the play to them," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "It was nice to see that the guys didn't quite until the very end."

Maxim Afinogenov scored with 14.9 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game and then again in the shootout as Buffalo recorded their second victory in as many games. Also scoring for the Sabres was Jiri Novotny, Jason Pominville and Daniel Briere.

Much like last season, in the weaning moments of a game where the team is trailing, any Sabres player could take the spotlight and become the hero.

"We didn't play well as a team early on, we turned a lot of pucks over and had a lot of individual efforts," said Ruff. "As the game went on, I thought our team game really came around.

"We talked about trusting each other and trusting the five-man system. We were rewarded for it in the end."

The Sabres had to fight a mountain of adversity to come away with the victory. A quick whistle in the first nullified an early goal by Afinogenov, Jason Pominville rang a shot off the post later in the period and four consecutive penalties in the third pushed the team into a corner while trailing by two goals.

On the other end of the spectrum, Montreal seemed to monopolize the favorable bounces through the first three periods, converting two deflected passes into a pair of goals.

"We can't explain why we had the slow start again," said Thomas Vanek, who finished another strong outing with a pair of assists. "But in the end we got a win and that's all that matters."

"Down the road, those are two points that may become very important," said Briere regarding the Sabres two shootout victories.

Montreal took the lead seven minutes into the game as Michael Ryder converted a Sheldon Souray rebound into the Canadiens first goal of the season.

Chris Higgins increased the Habs lead to a pair of goals when he collected Saku Koivu's arrant pass at the left post and slipped the puck just inside Miller's right pad at the 3:50 mark of the first.

Novotny reaped the benefit of a great individual play by Vanek to bring Buffalo to within one at 6:57 of the second.

Skating from the left boards, Vanek sliced through Montreal's zone between four defenseman and fed Novotny from behind the goal line with a behind-the-back pass.

"I circled in front and couldn't get a shot off," said Vanek. "I wheeled back behind the net and saw Jiri out front. [Montreal goaltender Cristobal Huet] was moving with me so it was good positioning by Jiri to stay there and stick with me."

Ryder's wristshot deflected twice - the second time off Jochen Hecht's stick - and came to rest on the tape of Koivu's stick just feet in front of Miller to make the score 3-1.

Off a faceoff win by Briere deep in Buffalo's zone, Pominville one timed Hecht's pass from the high slot for his first goal of the season just 51 seconds into the third.

With a two-man advantage, Montreal increased its lead to 4-2. Higgins one timed Alex Kovalev's pass from the right wing to Koivu at the right post for his second goal of the game.

A long pass by Dmitri Kalinin sprung Briere on a breakaway where the Sabres co-captain beat Huet five-hole to bring Buffalo to within a goal at 13:16.

Afinogenov slams Vanek's rebound into a wide-open net to tie the game with less than 15 seconds remaining in regulation.

In the shootout, Miller stuffed Ryder and saw Kovalev ring a wristshot off the crossbar to hold Montreal scoreless. Afinogenov and Vanek each scored high glove side on Huet.
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