MONTREAL – It’s not that Montreal captain Brian Gionta isn’t pleased to get his first multi-goal game of the season. He would just prefer that it came with a shutout for his goaltender.
Gionta had two goals and an assist while Carey Price made 34 saves as the Canadiens won 3-1 over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Price lost his shutout bid with only 1:13 left in the game when he was beat by a Buffalo defenceman Jordan Leopold point shot that found its way through a ton of traffic.
“We wanted to get it for him,” said Gionta. “There was a minute left, so we had a good chance get it for him, but it just didn’t work out.”
Andrei Kostitsyn also scored for Montreal, which improved to 3-0 against Buffalo (9-13-3) this season. They’ve also won six of their last seven home games and have outscored their opponents 21-7 in the process.
For Gionta, the night snapped a five-game goal drought. He now has seven on the year.
“If you keep putting it on the net good things will happen,”said Gionta.“I’ve talked about it before, we’ve been getting chances and eventually they were going to go in.”
Kostitsyn opened the scoring at 13:41 into the first period during a 5-on-3 advantage. Tomas Plekanec sent a cross-ice pass to Gionta who couldn’t get the puck past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, but the rebound popped out to Kostitsyn who tapped it into the open net.
Miller, playing in his second game in as many nights since coming back from a groin injury, was sound in the first period despite being pelted by 19 shots.
“You know, it’s just good to be back. I was really excited to play on a Saturday night in Montreal,”said Miller who ended up stopping 30 in the game.
It was a tough night for a couple of the workhorses on the Sabres. Tyler Myers was a minus one and Andrej Sejera was minus two on the night.
“We made some big mistakes tonight, Myers and Sekera had a tough night and we rely on those guys a lot,”said Buffalo’s coach Lindy Ruff.
Buffalo’s offence came alive in the second with 17 shots, but Price kept them from tying the game. Thomas Vanek rang a shot off the post from close range and Johan Hecht had a prime chance at the side of the net but slipped the puck through the crease.
“At times we look all right out there (in the second period),”said Ruff. “(We) couldn’t work things on the backside and had to adjust because shots were getting through … we tried some different looks.”
Montreal (15-8-1) went up by two with a goal at 12:26 in the second. Following a Sabres turnover, Kostitsyn sent a 2-on-1 pass to Gionta who scored his first of the night.
Gionta scored his second of the night on a pass from Plekanec at the top of the circle where he beat Miller up high.
Price made his league-leading 22nd start in 24 games for the Canadiens.
For Montreal, it was important to respond after a poor showing in a 3-0 loss to Atlanta on Friday night.
“We always want to come back strong after a loss, it’s something that we’ve been able to do,”said Price.“Our guys played great, they did a good job of getting guys from the front of the net and clearing loose pucks.”
Buffalo was able to get a 3-1 win over Toronto on Friday night but have been slumping as of late and are losers of four of their last six.
Notes: Tim Connolly has been out of the Sabres lineup since being sidelined with a groin injury suffered during practice on Monday. Buffalo’s captain Craig Rivet was a healthy scratch for the fifth time this season. . . Montreal’s Yannick Weber was a healthy scratch for a third straight game and Dustin Boyd also didn’t play.