MONTREAL – Even playing without star goalie Ryan Miller for the first time since Nov. 26, the Buffalo Sabres found a way to win.
Jochen Hecht scored in the 10th round of a shootout to make a winner of minor league callup Jhonas Enroth as the red-hot Sabres rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
The win gave the Sabres a 13-5-2 record since their top scorer Derek Roy was lost for the season with a knee injury. Buffalo moved to within two points of Carolina for the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference going into a home game Wednesday night against Toronto.
Drew Stafford, with his 19th goal in 22 games, and Jason Pominville scored as Buffalo (27-22-6) erased a 2-0 deficit.
”We weren’t happy with our start,” said Stafford. ”We weren’t skating or competing, but we were much better in the second and third periods and found a way to win.”
Enroth, called up from AHL Portland, made 32 saves in regulation time, then outduelled Carey Price in the shootout despite giving up goals on Montreal’s first two shots. Buffalo won for the fourth time in five games.
The teams combined for seven goals in the shootout, but Enroth stopped Montreal’s last five attempts. Price had three chances to win it early on, but was beaten on near-identical shots to the stick side by Thomas Vanek, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe.
Max Pacioretty and Benoit Pouliot gave Montreal (31-20-7) a 2-0 lead before Buffalo rallied. The Canadiens have only one win in five games.
”You want the two points, but they battled through,” said Montreal coach Jacques Martin, whose club ended a three-game homestand and now heads west for games Thursday in Edmonton, the Heritage Classic outdoor game Sunday in Calgary and next week in Vancouver.
”We had a good first period and then we let it slip. It would have been helpful to get another goal, but there was a bit of sloppiness on our part in the second half of the game.”
After starting 31 straight games, the Sabres gave Miller a night off after he was blitzed in a 7-6 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. Enroth was called up to start, with Patrick Lalime as the backup.
Enroth, who stopped 32 shots, was tested early and often as Montreal fired 18 first-period shots. But they settled only for Pacioretty’s power-play goal at 4:54 when he jammed in his own rebound at the side of the net.
Price stopped 30 shots for Montreal.
Rookie David Desharnais used a burst of speed to get between Tyler Myers and Andrej Sekera and slip a pass to Pouliot for his third goal in as many games 6:28 into the second.
The Sabres were on a power play when Vanek tried to jam the puck in and the rebound went to Stafford, who shot into an open side at 17:48.
Pominville tied it 6:08 into the third, converting Hecht’s pass from behind the net.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was wary of facing the Leafs, who beat the Bruins 4-3 in Boston.
”They’re a team that can play loose,” he said. ”They’ve made a couple of deals and I think that sent a message.
“There should be a lot of desperation from that club.”
The Canadiens were missing four injured defencemen and had Brendon Nash, called up from AHL Hamilton making his NHL debut in place of Jaroslav Spacek, who has a lower body problem. Nash, a native of Kamloops, B.C. who was signed as a free agent out of Cornell University, got 11:53 of ice time and had two shots.
Martin said Nash will make the trip west, as will Spacek, whose condition is considered day-to-day.
NOTES—Mathieu Darche returned from a lower-body injury after two games, bumping Lars Eller. Hal Gill missed a third game with an upper-body injury and Michael Cammalleri sat out an 11th contest with a shoulder problem . . . Patrick Kaleta and Craig Rivet were scratched for Buffalo. . . Tim Connolly of the Sabres played his 600th NHL game.