BUFFALO, N.Y. – Carey Price was the beneficiary of the Montreal Canadiens’ renewed defensive focus.
Price made 22 saves, and Alexandre Picard and Josh Gorges scored to help Montreal beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Friday night.
Price, who came in having faced the most shots by any goalie who has played three or fewer games, was rarely tested by a Buffalo team that was blanked by New Jersey on Wednesday night.
“It makes my job a lot easier when guys can’t get second and third whacks at pucks,” said Price, who faced 48 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.
“Our guys played really well, and we played an excellent system game. I thought everybody battled hard and did their job. We talked about defensive play before the game, and the guys did a great job of taking that to heart.”
Up 2-0 after two periods, Montreal was able to hang on for the win after blowing a two-goal lead at home against the Lightning.
“We felt good about our lead, but we knew they were going to come out hard,” said Picard, who scored for the first time since Dec. 18, 2009, at New Jersey. “We actually got a couple chances early in the third, then they had theirs. After that, we just shut our blue-line, and they couldn’t get in.”
The Canadiens also used a strong forecheck late in the game to prevent the Sabres from mounting a threat. Buffalo’s last shot on goal came with 3:48 left in regulation, and goalie Ryan Miller was unable to get to the bench for an extra attacker until less than 16 seconds remained.
“The last two games, I wasn’t pleased with how we played away from the puck,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. “I didn’t think we had the commitment, and our intensity needed to be better. Tonight we stayed out of the penalty box, rolled four lines, and I thought that was a big difference.”
Derek Roy scored and Miller made 26 saves for the Sabres, who have dropped four straight—all at home—since a season-opening win at Ottawa.
Before Roy’s third-period goal—his fifth of the season—the Sabres hadn’t scored since the third period of their loss Monday to Chicago, a streak of 118 minutes 55 seconds.
“We had a couple of bad bounces and it seems like we’ve had bad bounces fall on us,” Roy said. “We’re getting outworked at home and that’s unacceptable.”
After a scoreless first period, Picard gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead with his first of the season 1:29 into the second. After his slapshot from the left point was blocked by Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta, Picard collected the puck in the lower left circle before sending a pass to the front of the net.
The puck ricocheted in off Buffalo defenceman Chris Butler’s skate at the top of the crease.
Montreal grabbed a 2-0 lead with just 1:05 to go in the second when Gorges’ one-timer from the right point beat Miller on the glove side.
The power-play goal was Montreal’s first this season, snapping an 0-for-11 drought.
The Sabres cut the deficit in half when Roy scored 3:36 into the third.
“We didn’t win battles early on,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We threw some pucks away and didn’t compete enough.”
NOTES: The game was delayed for about 15 minutes as the Sabres recognized the 40-year anniversary of their first NHL home game with a pre-game ceremony that included a re-enactment of the inaugural puck drop in 1970 that featured the Sabres’ first captain, Floyd Smith. Former Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau, who was part of the original ceremonial puck drop, wasn’t present. Former Canadiens great Henri Richard took Beliveau’s place. … Buffalo D Shaone Morrisonn missed his first game because of a groin injury sustained against New Jersey on Wednesday. Butler replaced him in the lineup. … Buffalo lost seven straight home games to open the 1993-94 season. … The Canadiens will play four of their next five at home, while the Sabres will play six of their next seven on the road.