November 5, 2005
by Brian Wheeler
The Montreal Canadiens notched a pair of power-play goals to hand Buffalo their second consecutive 3-2 loss in front of a sold-out crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.
"Special teams were the difference in the game," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "They took advantage of a couple great opportunities and we didn't take advantage of a couple key situations."
The Sabres surged to life in the third period, out shooting Montreal 10-4, but couldn't find the game-tying goal as they suffered their fifth one-goal loss of the season.
"We battled to get back in the game but it was too late," said Ruff, whose team moves to 7-7-0 in the standings.
Hoping to spark the offense, Ruff moved rookie Paul Gaustad to the wing and paired him with Tim Connolly and Maxim Afinogenov.
The change seemed to spark the trio, who recorded four of Buffalo six points in the contest and Afinogenov in particular.
The Moscow, Russia native played one of his best games of the season for the Sabres, recording two assists and a team-high six shots on goal.
"I thought he was the best player on the ice," said Ruff of Afinogenov. "He got the puck to the net a lot and skated the best of anybody on our team. I really like that line."
Making his first back-to-back start of the season, Martin Biron was solid in net for Buffalo, making 26 saves.
Montreal jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after Mathieu Dandenault fired a shot on net that was tipped first by Alex Kovalev and then by Daniel Briere past Biron at 5:03 of the first. Briere was attempting to knock down the offering but inadvertently redirected the puck into the net.
JP Dumont recorded his fifth goal and fourth power-play point of the season in the last minute of play in the first to tie the game 1-1. After collecting Afinogenov's rebound, defenseman Brian Campbell swung the puck to Dumont in front of the net for the Sabres first goal of the night.
Buffalo's power-play unit has now scored in eight consecutive games.
Kovalev recorded his second goal of the night on the power play to regain Montreal's lead at 7:22 of the second. Standing alone ten feet in front of Biron, he received a feed from Andrei Markov and snapped a wrist shot top shelf for his sixth goal of the season.
"Second period, we made some nice plays in the offensive zone but our defensemen kept shooting into the Montreal forwards," said Ruff. "That gave them momentum with some odd-number rushes."
Montreal extended the lead to two goals with their second power-play marker of the game at 2:29 of the third. Canadiens' captain Saku Koivu found Richard Zednik on the right wing with a nice across-ice pass for the easy chip shot. The trio of Koivu, Zednik and Markov combined for six points in the contest.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Gaustad scored a gritty goal to bring Buffalo within one of Montreal.
After being leveled by a check, the Fargo, ND native stayed on the ice and sprinted to the front of the net where he slapped in Afinogenov's centering pass for his third goal of the season. The assist was Afinogenov's eighth of the season.
"It was great to see Gaustad take a hit, come right back and score a goal," said Ruff. "That's what the game is all about and I was impressed with that play."
The Sabres will return home Wednesday night to face the Carolina Hurricanes in HSBC Arena. Fans can take advantage of the lowest ticket prices of the season, as the contest is a Value Game. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM.
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| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
0-1 (5:03): Mathieu Dandenault fires a shot on that is tipped by Alex Kovalev and Daniel Briere past Sabres goaltender Martin Biron. Briere was attempting to knock down the shot but inadvertently redirected the puck on Biron. Kovalev is credited with the goal, while the assists are recorded by Dandenault and Richard Zednik.
1-1 (19:06): JP Dumont scores on the power play to tie the game in the final minute of play in the first. Max Afinogenov's rebound is controled by Brian Campbell and swung to Dumont, who was stationed in front of Jose Theodore, for the redirect. The goal is Dumont's fifth of the season. Campbell records his third assist of the season, while Afinogenov gets his seventh. Period 2
1-2 (7:22): On the power play off a Rory Fitzpatrick holding penalty, Alex Kovalev fires a wrist shot from ten feet in front of the net top shelf to regain the lead for Montreal. The goal is Kovalev's second of the night and sixth of the season. Andrei Markov and Saku Koivu are credited with the helpers. Period 3
1-3 (2:29): The Canadiens score another power-play goal to extend their lead to two. Saku Koivu slid a pass to Richard Zednik, who laced a wrist shot over a sprawling Martin Biron. The assist is Koivu's 12th of the season and second of the game. Andrei Markov gets the second assist. The combination of Koivu, Zednik and Markov has now registered six points in the game.
2-3 (11:21): After being leveled by a check, Paul Gaustad stayed on the ice and springs to the front of the net where he slapped in Maxim Afinogenov's pass to cut Montreal's lead to one. The goal is Gaustad's third of the season. Afinogenov records his second assist of the game, while Tim Connolly records his fourth assist of the season.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.