Sabres snap Canadiens’ 5-game win streak with 2-1 victory
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyler Ennis scored and the Buffalo Sabres closed their home schedule with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night to snap the Montreal Canadiens’ five-game winning streak.
Robin Lehner stopped 31 shots in a game the Sabres hung on to win after building a 2-0 lead through two periods.
Tomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens and Carey Price stopped 28 shots in what was essentially a mean-nothing game between two Atlantic Division rivals.
Buffalo has already been eliminated from playoff contention to extend the franchise’s longest post-season drought to six years. The Sabres did hit a milestone by finishing with a 20-15-6 home record to reach the 20-win mark for the first time since a 21-12-8 finish in 2011-12.
Montreal had little left to play for in having already secured the team’s fourth playoff berth in five years. The Canadiens were coming off a 4-1 win at Florida on Monday in which they clinched the Atlantic Division title and guaranteed the Eastern Conference’s second seed once the playoff open next week.
The win came at a time when the team expressed concern over the status of forward Kyle Okposo, who has spent more than a week being sidelined by an undisclosed illness. A person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Okposo has spent the past three days in a Buffalo hospital’s neuro surgical intensive care unit undergoing a battery of tests.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres have not revealed Okposo has been hospitalized.
Ristolainen opened the scoring 6:01 in with a slap shot from the right point that beat a screened Price over the right shoulder.
Ennis made it 2-0 midway through the second period. Evander Kane set up the play when his bad-angle shot to the right of the net caromed off Price and into the slot, stopping at the feet of Montreal forward Artturi Lehkonen. Before Lehkonen could play the puck, Ennis drove in and slapped at the puck beating Price over the left shoulder.
Plekanec cut Buffalo’s lead 46 seconds into the third period, when he completed a three-way passing play.
Paul Byron gained the blue line and dumped a pass to Alexander Radulov, who drove into the right circle before sending a pass through the middle and hitting Plekanec in stride. Plekanec cut across the top of the crease and backhanded a shot inside the right post.
The goal was Plekanec’s 226th goal with Montreal, moving him into 16th place on the team list, one ahead of Stephane Richer.
Price was sharp in keeping the game close. First, he foiled Ennis on a partial breakaway two minutes into the third period. Some 40 seconds later, Buffalo’s Nicolas Deslauriers drove in alone from the left circle only to have Price punch out his glove to snag the hard low shot headed for the right corner.
NOTES: Canadiens D Shea Weber (lower body) missed his second straight game and remains in Montreal to rehab what coach Claude Julien said was not “a serious injury.” Weber is expected to be healthy for the playoffs next week. … Sabres D Jake McCabe was benched after committing several turnovers that led directly to opponent’s goals in each of the past two games. … Canadiens C Brian Flynn returned after missing 12 games with an upper body injury.
Canadiens: Host Tampa Bay on Friday.
Sabres: At Florida on Saturday.