Game 75: Canadiens let a point slip away

Canadiens’ Alexei Kovalev scores his second goal of the game Saturday night under the arm of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. Allen McInnis, The Gazette

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AUDIO:  Bob Gainey  Saku Koivu  Christopher Higgins  Carey Price

The Canadiens made up at least some ground on the New York Rangers despite a 4-3 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night, a game the Sabres desperately needed as they continue a push for a playoff position.

With the Canadiens picking up a point, the Sabres, who sit 10th in the Eastern Conference, are four points behind the Canadiens, who have 86 points, one behind the New York Rangers in seventh spot. The Rangers lost their game Saturday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Carey Price looked much better in the shootout, stopping Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek, while Jason Pominville missed the net. Toni Lydman was the only one to score in the shootout, giving the Sabres a much needed second point.

Ryan Miller stopped Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Andrei Markov, while Alex Tanguay missed the net and Tomas Plekanec hit the post with his team’s fifth shot and Maxim Lapierre missed the net with a chance to extend the shootout.

Miller, who was playing his second game since returning from an ankle injury, played well and has given his teammates renewed hope of postseason play with a 32 save performance. At the other end of the ice, Price stopped 34 of 37 shots.
The Sabres, who played Friday night, were the ones who jumped out to an early lead despite being dominated for most of the first 28 minutes.

Adam Mair, inserted into the lineup in the place of Maxim Afinogenov, scored just as Alex Kovalev was exiting the penalty box 17:35 into the first period.

Early in the second period, Tim Connolly doubled his team’s lead on the power play with a blast from the slot that eluded Carey Price.

Trailing 2-0, the Canadiens came to life in the second period, sparked by the fourth line of Mathieu Dandenault, Glen Metropolit and Christopher Higgins eight minutes into the period.

They came in 3-on-2 and Dandenault fed a pass across the ice that Metropolit let slide to Higgins, who wristed a bullet over Ryan Miller’s shoulder 7:58 into the second period.

A few minutes later, Saku Koivu did all the work as he brought the puck out from behind the net and fired a backhander that found its way behind Miller. Koivu was originally credited with the goal, but replays showed that Kovalev redirected the puck for his 21st goal of the season.

Less than three minutes later, Kovalev scored his second of the game when he accepted a pass from Mathieu Schneider with his skate, kicked it to his stick and slid it under Miller’s outstretched arm.

The Sabres didn’t quit though and tied the game 3-3 four minutes into the third period when Clarke MacArthur scored into an empty net after accepting a pass from Jason Pominville from the lip of Price’s crease.

Montreal went 1-for-4 on the power play and the Sabres also scored once on three opporunities.

The Canadiens welcome former teammate Cristobal Huet and the Chicago Blackhawks to the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.

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