The Sabres got a lucky goal from Jiri Novotny in the first period and hard-earned goals in the second from Chris Drury and Jason Pominville to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Monday night and post their ninth win to start the season. “We’re finding ways to win, whether it’s high-scoring, low-scoring or in a shootout,” said Drury, whose shorthanded effort was his 10th goal of the season. “That’s a sign of a good team.
“We’ve had a good start. That was our goal. We’re glad we’re having a good month, but it’s a long year and we have to be ready for the next game (Thursday night against the Islanders in New York).”
Thomas Vanek added an empty net goal for the Sabres, whose 9-0 start is technically a team record, although three wins were via shootout, which would have been ties when the 1975-76 team started 8-0.
The Sabres need one more win to tie the NHL-record 10-0 start by the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs.
“No one is talking about that,” added Drury. “We just want to be sharp, go to the Island and give ourselves a chance to win.”
Mike Johnson scored for the Canadiens, who fell to 4-2-2 with their first regulation time loss at home.
“Their second goal got us down,” Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said of Drury’s shorthanded effort, which came on a rush down the left side after Andrei Markov turned over the puck at the Sabres’ blue-line.
“We had just hit a goal post and then we tried to beat four guys at the blue-line. We weren’t the same after that.”
Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller was sharp as Montreal outshot the Sabres 27-26. He improved to 5-0-1 in his career against Montreal.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said he is letting his players keep themselves on a roll. With five wins at the end of last season, Buffalo has 14 consecutive regular season victories.
They took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference final last spring and are favoured by many to go all the way this season.
“I really feel that we’ve got such a great group in there that it doesn’t come down to me,” said Ruff. “They’re hearing a lot of accolades about how they’re playing and you wonder how they’ll react, but they’ve done an extremely good job with it.
“That core group of veterans like (Daniel) Briere, Drury and (Teppo) Numminen have been very level-headed about just keeping up the hard work and playing the system and not getting too excited about the way things are going.”
One thing the NHL’s highest-scoring team will gladly accept is a gift goal, and the Sabres got one on only their second shot of the game at 9:42 when Novotny’s wrist shot from just inside the blue-line went off Cristobal Huet’s gloves and fell behind him into the net.
“The puck hit me – it was my mistake,” Huet admitted.
After Drury’s goal, hard work behind the Montreal net allowed Briere to feed Pominville for a tip-in at 11;12 of the second frame.
Radek Bonk stripped the puck from Henrik Tallinder and his shot was tipped in by Johnson 9:06 into the third period to bring the sellout crowd of 21,273 to life.
Vanek took a tripping penalty with 2:25 left to play, but the Czech winger scored into an empty net as he came out of the penalty box.
Notes – Montreal recalled centre Maxim Lapierre from AHL Hamilton when Bonk suffered back spasms, but Bonk ended up playing. Mathieu Dandenault (leg) and Aaron Downey (concussion) remain sidelined. . . Nathan Paetsch sat out for Buffalo, which has used the same 20-man lineup for each of its first nine games.