for this game

Koivu, Canadiens prevent Sabres from clinching East

Apr 1, 2007 - 4:33 AM
MONTREAL (Ticker) -- Despite a furious comeback attempt by the Buffalo Sabres, Saku Koivu and the Montreal Canadiens continued their charge toward a playoff berth.

Koivu scored his 20th goal of the season early in the third period and rookie Jaroslav Halak made nine of his 22 saves in the session as the Canadiens extended their home winning streak to eight games with a 4-3 victory over the Sabres.

Michael Ryder, Radek Bonk and rookie Maxim Lapierre also tallied for Montreal (41-32-6), which maintained its one-point lead over Toronto (38-29-11) for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs kept pace with an overtime triumph over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

"All wins are crucial, but this was more than a win," said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, whose team conceivably could meet the Sabres in the conference quarterfinals. "It was a message to the Buffalo Sabres, and we spoke with our players about that."

Trailing 1-0, the Canadiens reeled off three straight goals to take the lead midway through the second period. However, Thomas Vanek halved the deficit for the Sabres late in the session with his 39th goal of the campaign.

Montreal's captain, Koivu made a tremendous play to restore the two-goal bulge at 3:22 of the third. After intercepting a pass above the slot, the Finn carried around a defender and toward the net before firing the the puck into the top right corner of the net for a 4-2 advantage.

"Saku's a great player," Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray said. "He read that play really well, anticipating that play to pick off a pass, and he made a great shot to the top shelf. We really needed that because they came back. They made it close at the end, but we still managed to stay with it and get the result."

The Sabres refused to blame backup goaltender Ty Conklin, who made just 15 saves in a rare start.

"I thought he played really well," Buffalo's Derek Roy said. "We threw the puck up the middle and didn't really give him a chance to save a couple of shots. It wasn't his fault tonight, it was ours."

"It was a game where they took advantage of our mistakes," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff added. "We had a couple of late opportunities to tie it up, but we didn't take advantage of them."

Former Canadien Dainius Zubrus again drew the Sabres within one at 7:15, but Halak withstood Buffalo's charge the rest of the way as the Canadiens avoided their first loss at the Bell Centre since February 17.

"I think we were all aware of what (the Sabres) did a couple of games ago in Toronto, where they were down 4-1 and came back, so we knew in the back of our minds that they were capable offensively," Montreal's Chris Higgins said. "We played it as simple as possible. It probably wasn't the prettiest third period as far as getting pucks out of our zone and working it from there, but we did the job."

"They like to shoot, but tonight, I wasn't busy," Halak said. "They'd get some shots, and then for five minutes, there'd be no shots, so it was kind of difficult to stay in (the game). It was a great game for us. I was really happy about the win."

Co-captain Daniel Briere also tallied for the Sabres (50-21-7), who failed to clinch first place in the East. Buffalo leads Ottawa (47-24-8) by five points in both the conference and the Northeast Division with four games remaining and one in hand on the Senators.

"We had a chance to clinch it, but we knew we were facing a desperate team that needs every point," Zubrus said. "I think that it's just disappointing that we didn't play a solid 60 minutes, and we should have. That's something we're going to fix for the next game."

"You don't want to wait until the last game to clinch first place, you want to do it right away, and tonight we went out and wanted to do it," Roy added. "We wanted to win this game, we didn't let down at all."

Briere opened the scoring at 9:20 of the first, beating Halak to the glove side with a hard wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. But Ryder drew Montreal even with 4 1/2 minutes left in the period with his fourth goal in five games.

"We had a pretty goal from Ryder in the first period and got off to a pretty good start," Higgins said. "We got better as the game went on. I think we played our best period in the third."

Mark Streit chased down a dump-in in the left corner and got the puck to the left point. Fellow defenseman Francis Bouillon unleashed a wrister that Ryder deflected past Conklin from in front for his 27th of the campaign.

Just over 6 1/2 minutes into the second, Bonk had his shot from the slot blocked by Teppo Numminen. But he got around the blue-liner, grabbed the loose puck and slid a backhander around Conklin to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead.

Lapierre made it a two-goal bulge less than two minutes later, but Vanek tipped Roy's shot past Halak with 61 seconds to go for his fourth tally in five contests, drawing Buffalo within 3-2.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    BUFFALO 1 1 1 3
    MONTREAL 1 2 1 4 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: BUF - DANIEL BRIERE 32 (JOCHEN HECHT, TEPPO NUMMINEN) 9:20
    MON - MICHAEL RYDER 27 (FRANCIS BOUILLON, MARK STREIT) 15:33
    2ND PRD: MON - RADEK BONK 13 (JANNE NIINIMAA) 6:39
    MON - MAXIM LAPIERRE 6 (ALEXEI KOVALEV, ANDREI

    Mar 31 9:42 PM


  • ------------------------------------
    Buffalo
    1 1 1 --3
    Montreal 1 2 1 --4
    ------------------------------------

    Shots on goal:
    ---------------------------------------
    Buffalo 8 7 10 --25
    Montreal 5 12 2 --19
    ---------------------------------------

    Goalies : Buffalo, Ty Conklin (19 shots, 15 saves). Montreal, Jaroslav
    Halak (25 s

    Mar 31 9:36 PM


  • NHL
    BUFFALO 3
    MONTREAL 4
    3RD PRD: BUF - DAINIUS ZUBRUS 24 (DANIEL PAILLE, CHRIS DRURY) 7:15

    Sabres vs. CanadiensMar 31 9:13 PM


  • NHL
    BUFFALO 2
    MONTREAL 4
    3RD PRD: MON - SAKU KOIVU 20 (UNASSISTED) 3:22

    Sabres vs. CanadiensMar 31 9:04 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    BUFFALO 1 1 2
    MONTREAL 1 2 3 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: BUF - DANIEL BRIERE 32 (JOCHEN HECHT, TEPPO NUMMINEN) 9:20
    MON - MICHAEL RYDER 27 (FRANCIS BOUILLON, MARK STREIT) 15:33
    2ND PRD: MON - RADEK BONK 13 (UNASSISTED) 6:39
    MON - MAXIM LAPIERRE 6 (ALEXEI KOVALE

    Mar 31 8:46 PM


  • NHL
    BUFFALO 2
    MONTREAL 3
    2ND PRD: BUF - THOMAS VANEK 39 (DEREK ROY) 18:59

    Sabres vs. CanadiensMar 31 8:46 PM


  • NHL
    BUFFALO 1
    MONTREAL 3
    2ND PRD: MON - MAXIM LAPIERRE 6 (ALEXEI KOVALEV, ANDREI MARKOV) 8:16

    Sabres vs. CanadiensMar 31 8:20 PM


  • NHL
    BUFFALO 1
    MONTREAL 2
    2ND PRD: MON - RADEK BONK 13 (UNASSISTED) 6:39

    Sabres vs. CanadiensMar 31 8:14 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    BUFFALO 1 1
    MONTREAL 1 1 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: BUF - DANIEL BRIERE 32 (JOCHEN HECHT, TEPPO NUMMINEN) 9:20
    MON - MICHAEL RYDER 27 (FRANCIS BOUILLON, MARK STREIT) 15:33
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    BUF 8

    Mar 31 7:46 PM


  • NHL
    BUFFALO 1
    MONTREAL 1
    1ST PRD: MON - MICHAEL RYDER 27 (FRANCIS BOUILLON, MARK STREIT) 15:33

    Sabres vs. CanadiensMar 31 7:38 PM


  • NHL
    BUFFALO 1
    MONTREAL 0
    1ST PRD: BUF - DANIEL BRIERE 32 (JOCHEN HECHT, TEPPO NUMMINEN) 9:20

    Sabres vs. CanadiensMar 31 7:28 PM