Final - OT
  for this game

Afinogenov, Sabres top Canadiens in a shootout

Oct 7, 2006 - 3:07 AM BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- Maxim Afinogenov is picking up right where he left off last season.

Afinogenov forged a tie late in the third period before scoring the deciding goal in the shootout and Thomas Vanek also tallied in the bonus format as the Buffalo Sabres posted a thrilling 5-4 comeback victory over the Montreal Canadiens in their home opener.

In 2005-06, Afinogenov was the Sabres' leading scorer with a career-high 73 points. He also led the team in assists (51), game-winning goals in overtime (two) and shootout-deciding tallies (two).

"It's a team effort today," Afinogenov said. "The whole team played good in the second and third period. We come back like that."

After co-captain Daniel Briere drew the Sabres within 4-3 with 4:44 to go in the third period, Afinogenov took over. He knocked in a rebound with 14.9 seconds remaining to tie the contest before beating goaltender Cristobal Huet on Buffalo's second shootout attempt.

"I tried to move from side to side and go back in the middle and shoot upstairs," Afinogenov said.

Vanek, who had two assists, scored in the third round to clinch the victory.

"I just came in, just trying to outwait Huet," Vanek said. "He just kept standing there, so I figured I could get it through his arms."

Ryan Miller made 23 saves through 65 minutes before denying Michael Ryder in the shootout. Alexei Kovalev hit the crossbar on Montreal's second attempt.

Jiri Novotny and Jason Pominville scored in regulation for Buffalo, which improved to 18-13-5 in home openers.

"I think if you look at the game early, we didn't play well as a team. I thought we turned the puck over," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "But as the game went on, our team game came around. Any one person on that bench was going to be the hero. We started to get it in the third period and we got rewarded for it."

Saku Koivu had two goals and an assist and Chris Higgins collected three points for Montreal.

The Canadiens grabbed a 2-0 lead on tallies by Ryder and Higgins, and each of Koivu's tallies restored a two-goal advantage. But the Montreal captain does not believe his team relaxed.

"You're never confident with (a two-goal lead), especially the way they were calling penalties," he said. "Less than 20 seconds and the puck is out of our zone, and they came back and scored the tying goal. They scored two goals, it's really simple."

"It's always frustrating, but you have to learn from it," said Montreal's Guy Carbonneau, who was making his NHL coaching debut. "I can't go on the ice. The people I use have to get better. There were just little breakdowns. The Briere goal was most troubling to me."

With the Canadiens leading, 4-2, Briere received a long pass from defenseman Dmitri Kalinin and skated in alone on Huet, who was beaten between the pads.