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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

The young winger, who hasn’t scored a goal since Nov. 2, buried the game winner in the third period Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens at HSBC Arena.

Audio: Tim Connolly Post-Game 
Ryan Miller Post-Game 
Lindy Ruff Post-Game 
Thomas Vanek Post-Game 
Photo:  Montreal 2, Buffalo 4
Video:  Ryan Miller Post-Game
Video:  Lindy Ruff Post-Game
Video:  Daniel Paille Post-Game
Video:  Thomas Vanek Post-Game

Although scoring may allow him to relax a bit, it doesn’t appear Vanek will be doing so anytime soon.

“I still have a ways to go, but it’s a step,” he said. “It was a great play by Paetscher, kind of a shot pass. I feel like I got a great tip on the first one and it hit [Montreal goaltender Carey Price] in the shoulder and I just stuck with it and put it in.”

That may have been the difference for Vanek. Rather than become frustrated with some missed shots or blocked opportunities, he continued to battle in front of the net and kept his composure.

“At times you go cold for a long period of time,” Lindy Ruff said. “It’s just how you handle that.”

The goals may not have been coming, but Vanek is not without points. In the last two games he has been credited with four assists. However, it was a goal that he has been looking for.

Vanek said he had not altered his game at all since beginning the scoring slump, except for maybe one aspect.

“I think just maybe shooting the puck more instead of holding onto it and looking for the pretty plays,” he said.

“Hopefully there is more to come.”

Buffalo’s power play units also had a break through Friday night.

Two of the Sabres’ four goals came with the man advantage, with another scored moments after Canadien Alex Kovalev’s penalty expired. Buffalo’s final goal was scored on an empty net with less than a minute remaining in the game.

“That should give that unit a little bit of confidence going into the next game,” Lindy Ruff said.

In the last five games, the Sabres had only capitalized on two of 23 power play chances.

In addition, Buffalo also held Montreal’s power play, ranked first in the league (28.2 percent), to one goal on five opportunities, including killing a double minor given to Henrik Tallinder.

“We knew that was going to be important, and our penalty killing has been strong,” Ruff said.

Buffalo’s penalty killing is ranked seventh in the NHL, holding opponents 84.5 percent of the time.

Ryan Miller summed up how his mindset has changed from the beginning of the season, when he was at times struggling, until now.

"Early in the season I was probably too worried about what everyone else is trying to do and trying to be probably bigger than my role, doing too many things at once... [now] I'm just worried about my plate and worried about what I'm eating, and not what everyone else is eating," he said.
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