Canadiens 5, Sabres 1

Associated Press | Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:47 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - From worst one year, to the playoffs the next, the Montreal Canadiens are Hab-nots no longer.

Peter Budaj stopped 14 shots, and P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov had a goal and assist each in the Canadiens' dominating 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres that clinched a playoff berth on Thursday night.

The Habs became the second team in the Eastern Conference to secure a postseason berth. They did it a year after they finished last in the East. Montreal also moved back atop the Northeast Division, one point ahead of Boston, which was beaten 2-1 by the New York Islanders.

"It was a character game for us. We knew what was at stake," Subban said. "Winning's fun. It feels good to win. For the guys that were here last year, obviously, we know what it's like to lose."

Montreal jumped to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes, and doubled it after two periods. Budaj lost his shutout bid on Brian Flynn's short-handed goal 6:45 into the third period.

That didn't stop the numerous Canadiens jersey-clad fans on hand from starting an "Ole, Ole, Ole!" celebration with 3 minutes left.

"I'm very thankful to be part of this team," said Budaj, whose seventh consecutive victory came a day after he signed a $2.8 million contract extension. "We outshot them. We outplayed them. I don't want to take anything away from Buffalo, but we played a much better game."

The Sabres didn't need to be reminded of that in a game in which they were outshot 42-15 and outplayed for lengthy stretches.

Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers described his team's effort as "probably the most embarrassing game I've been a part of."

While Buffalo (16-19-6) slipped closer to missing the playoffs for a second straight season, Montreal (26-9-5) continued what has been a dominating roll through a lockout-shortened season.

The 26 wins are the Canadiens' most through 40 games since the 1978-79 season, when they got off to a 27-8-5 start, according to STATS. The Canadiens are also on a tear away from home. They improved to 13-4-2, which matches their best road record through 19 games since 1977-78, according to STATS.

Subban called it unfair to compare this year's squad to the franchise's Hall of Fame-laden teams of the 1970s.

"I think we're just worried about creating our own identity," Subban said. "We're not finished. We have a lot to accomplish here."

Rene Bourque and rookie Alex Galchenyuk scored 3:44 apart to put the Canadiens up 2-0 by 10:27 of the first period. Brendan Gallagher and Markov scored during the second period in which Montreal held a 17-4 edge in shots. Subban added a power-play goal with 2:41 left.

Bourque scored on a 3-on-1 break. Galchenyuk's goal came after he had time to take two whacks at the puck to the left of the net. Gallagher scored when he was allowed to carry the puck across the top of the crease untouched and wrap it around sprawling goalie Ryan Miller. Markov scored during a two-man advantage.

The game was so lopsided that Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston pulled Miller after he faced 32 shots through two periods.

"He played well. There was nothing he could do," Rolston said, of Miller. "We didn't have enough effort. We didn't have enough going. We had too many passengers."

It is the Canadiens who are riding high following an offseason in which Marc Bergevin took over as general manager, and Michel Therrien got his second shot coaching Montreal following a 10-year absence.

"We're proud about making the playoffs. It's a good accomplishment," Therrien said. "We realize that there's a lot of hockey to be played, and there's more steps coming."

NOTES: Tomas Plekanec earned his 237th assist with Montreal to tie Chris Chelios for 35th on the career list. ... The Sabres, who opened a three-game homestand, will close the season by playing five of their final seven at Buffalo. ... Canadiens C Jeff Halpern played in his 900th NHL game. ... Montreal beat the Sabres for only the third time in 14 meetings (3-5-6), and won in regulation at Buffalo for the first time since a 3-2 victory on Nov. 5, 2010.

Scoring Summary
1st Period
06:43MTL Rene Bourque (6) ASST: Brian Gionta (12), Tomas Plekanec (16) 1 - 0 MTL
10:27MTL Alex Galchenyuk (6) ASST: Michael Ryder (17) 2 - 0 MTL
2nd Period
04:36MTL Brendan Gallagher (12) ASST: David Desharnais (14), Max Pacioretty (20) 3 - 0 MTL
17:54MTL PPG - Andrei Markov (8) ASST: P.K. Subban (23), Michael Ryder (18) 4 - 0 MTL
3rd Period
06:45BUF SHG - Brian Flynn (5) ASST: Kevin Porter (4), Andrej Sekera (10) 4 - 1 MTL
17:19MTL PPG - P.K. Subban (11) ASST: Andrei Markov (18), Max Pacioretty (21) 5 - 1 MTL
Three Stars of the Game
P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban
G: 1Shots: 6
A: 1Hits: 0
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: -1TOI: 25:06
Michael Ryder
Michael Ryder
G: 0Shots: 1
A: 2Hits: 1
PTS: 2PIM: 0
+/-: 0TOI: 14:56
Brendan Gallagher
Brendan Gallagher
G: 1Shots: 4
A: 0Hits: 1
PTS: 1PIM: 2
+/-: 1TOI: 13:58
Penalty Summary
1st Period
06:47BUF Patrick Kaleta  Fighting (maj) against  Brandon Prust
06:47MTL Brandon Prust  Fighting (maj) against  Patrick Kaleta
07:52BUF Adam Pardy  Holding against  Michael Ryder
2nd Period
07:59BUF Nathan Gerbe  Elbowing against  Lars Eller
12:49BUF Steve Ott  Fighting (maj) against  Francis Bouillon
12:49MTL Francis Bouillon  Fighting (maj) against  Steve Ott
16:05BUF Mike Weber  Delaying Game-Puck over glass
17:08BUF Jochen Hecht  Hi-sticking against  Brendan Gallagher
19:08MTL Brandon Prust  Tripping against  Drew Stafford
3rd Period
05:37BUF Luke Adam  Tripping against  David Desharnais
07:48BUF Tyler Ennis  Too many men/ice - bench
09:34MTL Brendan Gallagher  Interference on goalkeeper against  Jhonas Enroth
16:13BUF Jochen Hecht  Holding against  Max Pacioretty
18:31BUF Nathan Gerbe  Abuse of officials - bench
20:00MTL Rene Bourque  Roughing against  Brian Flynn
shots by period
Team Stats
Power Plays2/80/2
Faceoff Wins3324
Blocked Shots1314
Penalty Minutes1626
8B. PrustL0000710:13
11B. GallagherR1014213:58
14T. PlekanecC0112016:46
17R. BourqueR1012217:14
21B. GiontaR0112015:56
24J. HalpernC0000013:28
26J. GorgesD0012018:51
27A. GalchenyukC1011012:28
32T. MoenL0002013:43
40N. BeaulieuD0024016:50
44D. DrewiskeD0020015:18
51D. DesharnaisC0102015:25
55F. BouillonD0013519:51
67M. PaciorettyL0205017:01
73M. RyderR0201014:56
76P. SubbanD11-16025:06
79A. MarkovD11-13024:04
81L. EllerC0013015:20
30P. Budaj1415.93359:32
6M. WeberD00-11221:22
9S. OttC0000516:20
10C. EhrhoffD0001022:02
12K. PorterC0112016:56
19C. HodgsonC00-22010:29
21D. StaffordR0001017:03
26T. VanekL00-21014:16
27A. PardyD0000217:56
36P. KaletaR00-10510:00
42N. GerbeC00-11213:43
44A. SekeraD0100019:16
53M. PysykD00-20014:03
55J. HechtC00-10417:07
57T. MyersD00-12025:37
63T. EnnisC0003014:02
65B. FlynnC1011017:58
72L. AdamC000027:23
82M. FolignoL00-20010:03
1J. Enroth910.90020:00
30R. Miller2832.87540:00