MONTREAL – Carey Price played his heart out, but it was rival goaltender Ryan Miller who came away with a record-tying victory.
Miller made 27 saves to pick up his 234th win as a Sabre, tying Dominik Hasek’s team record, as Buffalo beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Price was spectacular in the net for Montreal (19-22-9), making 37 saves in a losing cause.
“I knew I was close because I’ve been sitting on it way too long, considering where I was at the start of the season,” said Miller, who is 13-15-2 with the struggling Sabres this season. “It’s nice.<
“It’ll be something to smile about looking back on my career later on. I’m going to take it for what it is because I think Dom would have won a few shootouts in his day, so I think we can safely say Dom would have had a few more wins. I’ll keep plugging way for the regulation wins.”
Paul Gaustad, back after missing three games with an upper body injury, had the winning goal in the third period and added two assists for Buffalo (21-24-5).<
He also ignited a skirmish at the end of the game with a comment to Montreal’s Max Pacioretty, which some players said was “Where’s Chara”—a reference to the Boston defenceman who sent Pacioretty to hospital with fractured vertebrae with a hit into a stanchion late last season.<
A Montreal player apparently shot back a remark about Gaustad’s failure to come to Miller’s aid after he was flattened by Boston’s Milan Lucic early this season.<
“He said something that upset me, so I think it went tit for tat,” said Gaustad. “I’m not a guy that talks about stuff on the ice to the media, so I’m just going to leave it at that.
“He said something that upset me along the exact same lines, so if he’s got a problem with it he can handle it with me next game.”
Ville Leino, with his first goal since Dec. 7, and Patrick Kaleta, with an empty-net goal, also scored for Buffalo, which has won two in a row since ending a five-game losing streak. The Sabres are 3-0-0 against Montreal this season.
Pacioretty had the lone goal for Montreal, which had won its previous two games.
The hungrier, harder-working Sabres outshot the Canadiens 40-28 overall and pulled even with Montreal on 47 points, but both remain well out of playoff position in the NHL Eastern Conference.
Price, back from his all-star game appearance in Ottawa, did his best to steal a win, but erratic play by his team in its zone proved too much.
On the game-winner, Gaustad battled Hal Gill to hold position at the Montreal crease and tipped in a Brad Boyes pass.
“That’s the type of goal we need to score _ just throw it on the net,” said Price. “He didn’t even see the puck coming. It hit his stick and went in. That’s exactly the type of goal we need.”
”That’s a shame because he played great,”Gill said of Price.”He tried to steal one for us and we didn’t let it happen.”
Price was also upset with Gaustad.
“He’s got a big mouth and he likes to run it,” a seething Price said. “We can’t worry about what he’s got to say because he doesn’t do much out there.”
The Sabres did it mostly without first-line forward Thomas Vanek, who left the game after the first period with what the team called an upper body injury. Coach Lindy Ruff said he may be out for a week, but doctors needed to evaluate Vanek.
Pacioretty chipped the puck past Matt Ellis at the red-line and went in alone to score on his own rebound 4:09 into the game. It was the Montreal winger’s career-high 18th goal of the season.
The Sabres poured 18 shots on Price in the middle period but managed only a rare goal from off-season signing Leino, who put a sweet drag move on defenceman Rafael Diaz on a counterattack and scored with a wrist shot from close range. It was his fourth goal of the season.
Buffalo had its entire team working, but the Canadiens had only Price, defenceman Josh Gorges, the line of Pacioretty, David Desharnais and especially Erik Cole, and perhaps one or two others who looked like the win mattered.
“We had a handful of guys with the desperation, but not enough,” said coach Randy Cunneyworth.
Notes: Miller has played 430 games for the Sabres, while Hasek set the team record after 491 games. . . Tyler Ennis returned for Buffalo after missing 17 games with an ankle injury. Marc-Andre Gragnani, T.J. Brennan and Luke Adam sat out. . . Montreal scratched Chris Campoli, while Travis Moen missed with an upper body. Andreas Engqvist played after being called up from AHL Hamilton.