Sabres Top Canadiens 6-3
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Matthew Barnaby was called a pest by his own teammates and a problem by his coach.
On Sunday, the Buffalo Sabres forward was simply the best player on the ice.
Barnaby recorded his first career hat trick to lead the Sabres to a 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, giving Buffalo a 2-0 series lead.
Game 3 will be Tuesday night in Montreal.
``It’s exciting to get a hat trick, but this is what we play for,″ Barnaby said. ``Being up 2-0 in the series is the only thing that matters right now.″
Six weeks ago, the only thing that mattered to Barnaby was getting out of Buffalo. Frustrated with his own play, Barnaby asked for a trade just before the deadline. The deal never happened, and everything since has fallen the right way for Barnaby.
His wife, Christine, gave birth to 8-pound, 14-ounce Matthew Joseph last week. The Sabres beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round and now have a two-game series lead against Montreal.
To top off the turnaround, Barnaby had the best game of his career with his mother watching from a luxury suite on Mother’s Day. Sandra Barnaby had tears rolling down her cheeks while her son raised his arms as the game’s first star.
``Everything that has happened this month, I have to pinch myself,″ said Barnaby, who also added an assist.
Montreal, which badly outplayed Buffalo in Game 1 only to lose in overtime, finds itself in a very difficult position as the series switches back to the Molson Centre.
The Canadiens had a 15-17-9 home record during the regular season and must win four of the next five games. They are 0-6-1 in their last seven games against the Sabres.
``If we win the next game, obviously we’re back in the series,″ Canadiens forward Vincent Damphousse said. ``If we don’t, we’re faced with a huge challenge.″
The Canadiens self-destructed toward the end of the second period. Barnaby capitalized on a major mistake when he caught Montreal sleeping with 1:33 left in the second period and gave Buffalo a 4-3 lead.
Barnaby had the puck behind the Montreal net before breaking in front and sending a backhander between Andy Moog’s legs. His second goal came 13 seconds into the third to break the game open and his third went into an empty net with 49 seconds left.
``Every time we were looking to gain some momentum, they took it away from us,″ Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault said. ``That goal at the end of the end of the second definitely hurt us.″
Barnaby has been known as more of an instigator than a scorer throughout his career, but he has displayed offensive skills over the last month. He has four goals in seven playoff games after scoring five in 72 games in the regular season.
``He does everything,″ Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ``He agitates and he’s a good playmaker. (Sunday), he was a good goal scorer.″
The Sabres have not had a 2-0 series lead in the second round of the playoffs since 1980, which also was the last time they reached the conference finals.
Buffalo has won five straight playoff games going back to Game 3 against Philadelphia in the first round. The Sabres were swept by Montreal in 1993, the last time the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.
``Game 3 is the only thing that matters to us right now,″ Barnaby said. ``Games 1 and 2 are done. There’s a lot of hockey left, and there’s a lot left in that team for sure.″