BUFFALO, N.Y. – Given how poorly Buffalo was playing two months ago, defenceman Tyler Myers is certain it would have let this one slip away.
It’s a much different story in March, now that the surging Sabres have climbed back in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Buffalo allowed the tying goal with 5 seconds left in regulation, but Myers scored 2:01 into overtime to secure a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
“Two months ago, I would say it would’ve been very tough with our group,” Myers said, noting how the Sabres might have allowed frustration to settle in after Montreal’s David Desharnais forced overtime by scoring during a wild scramble in front.
“But I think we’ve come a very long, long way,” Myers said. “Those goals don’t feel good. And the way we responded was a big sign of life with our group.”
The Sabres (33-29-8) improved to 9-2-2 in their past 13 games, a roll that has moved them from the depths of the Eastern Conference standings into ninth place, two points behind Washington in the race for the final playoff spot.
Myers raced up the right wing to join Derek Roy and Jason Pominville for a 3-on-2 rush that led to the winning goal. Roy crossed the blue line and slid a pass across to Myers, who snapped a shot by Peter Budaj and just inside the left post.
Tyler Ennis scored twice, Drew Stafford had two assists and Ryan Miller stopped 26 shots while extending Buffalo’s home winning streak to a season-best five straight.
“I think it shows we’ve got good character,” Ennis said. “It can be deflating when you let in a goal with a few seconds left. And we bounce back and score right away in overtime.”
Desharnais and Erik Cole each had a goal and an assist each for the Canadiens (27-32-11), who salvaged a point but remain stuck in last place in the East.
Coach Randy Cunneyworth didn’t consider the loss to Buffalo as a setback, and noted his team was jet-lagged after a 4-1 win at Vancouver on Saturday.
“I don’t look at it as a step backward,” Cunneyworth said. “I was happy with the effort. I think under the circumstances, the guys gave everything they had.”
Despite a slow start and being outshot 14-6 in the first period, the Canadiens opened the scoring 4:32 in on Cole’s slap shot off a Sabres turnover.
Buffalo pressured Montreal but Budaj stepped up with 33 stops.
In the first period, he somehow got a piece of Thomas Vanek’s shot through a screen. Four minutes into the second, Budaj thrust his glove up to snag Roy’s blast that came on a 3-on-1 break. Vanek was foiled again with 8:32 remaining, when he got in alone only to have Budaj get a piece of the shot with his right pad.
Ennis tied it 11:08 into the second period on a great individual rush when he crossed the blue line, turned Montreal defenceman Andrei Markov inside out and beat Budaj by faking a backhand shot before going forehand.
Ennis then put the Sabres in front 1:50 into the third period courtesy of a fortunate bounce on a 2-on-1 break. His pass through the crease deflected in off Montreal defenceman Alexei Emelin’s stick.
Buffalo improved to 7-0-1 in its past eight against Northeast Division-rival Montreal. The only blemish was a 4-3 shootout loss in their previous meeting last month. That game prompted Sabres coach Lindy Ruff to say he was “embarrassed” following a sloppy effort that dropped Buffalo into a tie for last place in the East.
Ruff was in a better mood this time.
“It was tough on the emotions giving that goal up with that amount of time,” Ruff said. “We didn’t defend that situation very well. But to come back and go after it and not get on our heels … I thought we answered the bell.”
NOTES: Sabres LW Matt Ellis is out indefinitely after hurting his right knee in a 4-3 shootout win at Ottawa on Saturday. Ruff also said D Andrej Sekera has been diagnosed with pneumonia after missing the past three games with flulike symptoms. … Desharnais returned after missing one game with a lower body injury. … Before the anthems, the Sabres honoured Rick Martin, Buffalo’s French Connection-line winger, who died last March 13 of heart disease.