Canadiens strike in final five once again
Rookies Alexander Perezhogin (right) and Chris Higgins await veteran defensemen Andrei Markov and Craig Rivet after Perezhogin notched his fourth of the season.
BUFFALO - True to their season-long script so far, Claude Julien's cardiac kids once again found a way to win in the dying moments of a game as Niklas Sundstrom scored the game-winner with 2:52 left in regulation, sealing the Canadiens' 3-2 victory at HSBC Arena on Friday night.
The Canadiens (10-3-1), who hadn't savoured a win in Buffalo since back on Oct. 26, 2001, now improve to 6-0-1 on the road for the first time in franchise history, eclipsing the 1997-98 squad who began the year 6-1-0 away from the Bell Centre. Montreal is now back atop the Eastern Conference with 21 points and is off to its best start since 1991-92 when they last picked up 10 wins in their first 14 games.
Sundstrom's deflection of a Steve Begin shot saw the Canadiens come-from-behind after trailing heading into the final period for the third time so far this season after going 3-24-2-1 back in 2003-04.
Facing a 2-1 deficit after the first two periods, Michael Ryder evened things up when he notched his team-leading seventh goal of the season. With his line not registering a scoring chance until the final frame, Ryder took a feed from linemate Mike Ribeiro before beating Martin Biron through the legs just over six minutes into the third.
Alexander Perezhogin scored the Canadiens' first goal of the night when the Russian rookie accepted a pass from Andrei Markov before ripping a wrist shot past Biron up-high glove side. Perezhogin now has four goals and eight points in 13 games as he snapped a five-game pointless streak. The point was Perezhogin's first since stepping aside on the top line alongside Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev to make room for Richard Zednik. Higgins drew the other assist on the play as the Kid Line along with Tomas Plekanec was by far the Canadiens' most dominant line of the evening.
In his second career start, Yann Danis turned away 24-of-26 Sabres shots for his second win, having recording a shutout against the Thrashers in his NHL debut on Oct. 12. Despite his 10-3 career record against Montreal and his sparkling 1.83 career goals-against average heading into Friday's matchup, Biron suffered the loss after stopping 28-of-31 shots.
Buffalo's goals came from Adam Mair and former Canadiens defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick.
The Canadiens and Sabres will do it all over again on Saturday night at the Bell Centre in the back end of this home-and-home series.
Notes: C Radek Bonk missed his third straight game with a groin injury. D Mark Streit was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game...Sundstrom's game-winner was his first since Feb. 4, 2004 in a 4-3 victory over the Penguins in Pittsburgh... Montreal went 0-for-7 on the power-play, while Buffalo was 1-for-5... The Canadiens' victory was only their sixth in 22 games since the Sabres moved into HSBC Arena (6-14-1-1)... Sabres captain Daniel Briere saw his seven-game point streak snapped...
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com