Habs grab point in season opener
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Ales Kotalik scored the only shootout goal the Sabres needed on Friday night, lifting Buffalo to a 2-1 win and spoiling the Montreal Canadiens' start to their 100th season.
Drew Stafford also scored in the shootout, while Thomas Vanek scored the lone goal in regulation in the Sabres' season-opener. Goalie Ryan Miller stopped 27 shots through overtime and didn't allow a goal on the two shots he faced in the shootout.
Miller got his pad out to foil Robert Lang's attempt to stuff a shot inside the right post. The game ended when Saku Koivu had the puck roll of his stick.
Lang scored the lone goal for Montreal.
Kotalik has now scored 13 times on 26 career shootout attempts, and many of them coming in similar fashion. Driving in on Carey Price, Kotalik faked a shot from 10 feet out and then drove to the left to backhand a shot behind the goalie. Stafford scored in similar fashion, but actually roofed his shot just inside the crossbar.
The outcome was a turnaround for a Sabres team that went 14-18 in one-goal games last season, and missed the playoffs after reaching the Eastern Conference finals in each of its previous two seasons.
Montreal, coming off a breakthrough season in which it finished first in the East standings, dropped to 4-3-2 in its past nine regular-season openers.
The Canadiens had a goal waved off with 4:40 remaining, when Andrei Markov banked his point shot off the right post following a faceoff deep in the Sabres end. Referee Ian Walsh disallowed the goal by calling an interference penalty on Canadiens forward Guillaume Latendresse, who upended a Buffalo player attempting to race out to the point.
Lang opened the scoring three minutes in on Montreal's first shot on net. Tom Kostopoulos' shot from the blue line was partially blocked, and the puck dribbled to Lang in the right circle, where the forward snapped a shot over Miller.
Vanek tied it five minutes later on a great individual play and following a neutral-ice turnover. Vanek drove up the left side, patiently waited for Markov to slide past him, and stepped into the slot to beat Price.
Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman made a goal-saving play midway through the second period. Miller got his blocker up to stop Roman Hamrlik's shot from the left circle, but the puck took a strange bounce off the ice and began rolling toward the net. Lydman smartly got his stick out to poke the puck away before it crossed the goal line.
Price, who closed his rookie season by winning his final seven starts last year, continued to look sharp. His best stop came eight minutes into the third period when he flubbed a chance to poke check Vanek coming out from behind the net, but recovered in time to dive across the crease to stop Vanek's shot from the slot.
Notes: Sabres D Teppo Numminen, who missed all but one game last season after having surgery to repair a faulty heart valve, appeared in his first game in Buffalo since May 19, 2007, when the Sabres were eliminated by Ottawa of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. The 40-year-old opened his 20th NHL season, and earned an assist on Vanek's goal. ... The Canadiens, who opened 2-10 in their inaugural season in the former National Hockey Association, dropped to 3,052-2001-838-52. ... The Sabres were minus C Tim Connolly (back), while Montreal was without LW Christopher Higgins (groin) and D Francis Bouillon (knee).