Niemi stops 35 shots in Canadiens’ 3-0 win over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Antti Niemi stopped 35 shots for his first shutout in 27 months, and the Montreal Canadiens snapped a seven-game road skid with a 3-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
Artturi Lehkonen scored the go-ahead goal by converting a puck that bounced off the end boards 4:56 into the second period. Former Sabres forward Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher then scored empty-net goals 22 seconds apart in the final 1:15 to seal the win.
Montreal had lost its past four overall and gone 0-5-2 on the road since a 6-3 win at the New York Islanders on March 2.
Niemi improved to 6-8-4 since being claimed by Montreal after being waived by Florida in mid-November. The shutout was the 36th of his career but first since a 20-save performance in the Dallas Stars’ 4-0 win over Chicago on Dec. 22, 2015.
The Sabres closed their six-game homestand at 1-4-1, which included a 4-1 loss on Wednesday to Arizona, the Western Conference’s last-place team. The Sabres’ league-worst home record dropped to 11-22-5, and they must win their final two home games to avoid setting a franchise low for fewest wins in an 82-game season (13-21-7, in 2012-13).
Sabres rookie Linus Ullmark allowed one goal on the 22 shots he faced.
Buffalo lost to a Canadiens opponent that is now tied with Arizona with the NHL’s fewest road wins (10) and has scored a league-low 85 goals on the road.
Montreal was being outshot 10-3 through the first 15 minutes and yet struck first on Lehkonen’s goal 4:56 into the second period.
Alex Galchenyuk’s shot from the left circle was blocked in front, and the puck dribbled to Jacob de la Rose, who snapped a shot just wide of the net from the slot. The puck struck the boards and to Lehkonen, who flipped it in above Ullmark’s out-stretched right leg.
The Sabres had their chances, including failing to score during a two-man advantage spanning 1:06 after Lehkonen was penalized for tripping 6:53 into the third period.
Buffalo’s best chance came a minute later when Ryan O’Reilly was facing an open net when set up alone just above the right post. O’Reilly, however, was unable to control the puck and failed to off a shot.
Scott Wilson had Niemi beat, but his shot from the left circle struck the crossbar 13 minutes into the game.
Sam Reinhart was set up alone in front but robbed by Niemi on a chance with 4:15 left in the second period. Some 20 seconds later, O’Reilly slipped a pass into the crease from behind the net, but Reinhart was unable to get a shot off.
NOTES: Sabres C Zemgus Girgensons returned after missing two games with an undisclosed injury. ... After opening the season with a 3-2 shootout win at Buffalo, the Canadiens proceeded to go 0-6-1 in their next seven. ... Before the game, the Sabres honored Luke McDermott and Adam Page, two local members the United States gold-medal-winning Paralympic hockey team.
Canadiens: Host Washington Capitals on Saturday.
Sabres: At New York Rangers on Saturday.
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