Canadiens goaltender Carey Price keeps his eye on an
incoming puck as Sabres centre Paul Gaustad looks to get in Price’s way during the first period on Friday night. REUTERS/Gary Wiepert
Updated by Kevin Mio
Say hello to your first place Montreal Canadiens.
With their 6-2 win over the Sabres on Friday night, the Canadiens overtook the Ottawa Senators for top spot in the Northeast Division with 79 points and also moved into second spot in the Eastern Conference.
The win, combined with New Jersey’s 4-0 loss to the Capitals – with former Hab Cristobal Huet in net for the shutout – sets up a battle for first place in the East Saturday night as the Devils visit the Bell Centre.
Tomas Plekanec led the offence for the Canadiens with the first hat trick of his career – with all three goals coming on the power play – while also adding an assist on a pretty third-period goal by Andrei Kostitsyn. Plekanec now has 24 goals on the season.
Andrei’s younger brother, Sergei, scored the sixth Montreal goal on a 2-on-1 break with his brother. Miller made the initial stop, but Kostitsyn got his own rebound and slid it into a vacant net.
Alex Kovalev had another exceptional night, collecting four assists that included a beautiful lob pass to Andrei Kostisyn, who slid the puck between the pads of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
Plekanec opened the scoring 1:24 into the game as he whistled a shot past Miller’s right shoulder after receiving a pass from Kovalev to the side of the net. Mark Streit made it 2-0 for the Canadiens midway through the period. Streit also added two assists, giving him 47 points on the season, the same as Canadiens captain Saku Koivu.
The Sabres cut the Canadiens’ lead to 2-1 when Tomas Vanek scored a power-play goal with Koivu in the box.
But the Canadiens stormed back with Plekanec scoring his second and third goals of the game to give Montreal a 4-1 lead.
The second period was also marked by some rough play as Andrei Markov when Patrick Kaleta blindsided the defenceman with a vicious hit that went unnoticed by referees.
Later in the period, the Sabres’ Nolan Pratt challenged Guillaume Latendresse to a fight and Latendresse gladly accepted, landing a few quick rights that sent Pratt to the ice.
Tim Connolly added the second goal for the Sabres 11 minutes into the third period.
In his second game since being recalled from Hamilton, Mikhail Grabovski had two assists, doubling his points total on the season.
Montreal was a perfect 3-for-3 on the power play, while the Sabres went 2-for-6 with the man advantage.
Carey Price made 31 saves in the Canadiens’ 20th road win of the season. The Habs pelted Miller with 33 shots.