Brendan Gallagher scores twice, Canadiens beat Sabres 7-4
MONTREAL (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens refused to be satisfied — or comfortable — not with so much at stake.
Brendan Gallagher had two goals and an assist, and the Canadiens beat the Buffalo Sabres 7-4 on Saturday night for their third straight win.
Max Domi and Tomas Tatar each had a goal and two assists as the Canadiens (40-28-7) moved three points ahead of idle Columbus in the race for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron also scored.
“That’s our team identity right there to be resilient and to be consistent,” Domi said. ”(Buffalo) is a really good hockey team. They have a lot of firepower up front, good defense, great goaltender. They weren’t giving up and we knew that. We just found a way to keep going.”
Making his seventh start in a row, Montreal star Carey Price made 23 saves.
Sam Reinhart, Alexander Nylander, Marco Scandella and Jack Eichel scored for the Sabres (31-34-9), who were officially eliminated from playoff contention. Carter Hutton stopped 37 shots.
The Canadiens remain two points behind Carolina for the first wild card. The Hurricanes beat Minnesota 5-1 on Saturday night. Montreal plays Carolina on Sunday.
“We gave up a couple of goals, but our team did a great job responding,” said Byron, who netted his 14th of the season.
The game was tied it at 3 before Byron got his 14th of the season with 1:57 left in the second period. Byron skated in for a 2-on-1 with Jordan Weal, whose shot was saved by Hutton before bouncing off Byron’s skate and in.
Gallagher got his 33rd goal 8:35 into the third before Eichel got one back for the Sabres at 13:13.
Domi sealed it with a power-play goal with 4:30 remaining. Tatar, playing his 500th NHL game, added an empty-netter with 2:13 to go.
“In the third period, we didn’t sit back, we kept chasing the game and trying to score,” Byron said. “Huge two points for us. We’re fighting for the playoffs. Every game is pretty intense out there. It was a playoff atmosphere.”
The Sabres have one win in their past 10 games, and were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
“It’s been a long year,” Eichel said. “These same issues seem to continue to haunt us. We have to be better these next few games. There’s still a lot of pride on the line. We represent our city, this organization. That should be enough right there. We should play for each other more.”
Reinhart got the game’s first goal when he beat Price 12:26 into the first period.
The teams combined for six goals in a back-and-forth second.
Montreal tied it at 5:09 when Lehkonen took a feed from Shaw and scored while crashing into the net. Lehkonen only had one point in his previous 22 games.
Domi earned his 200th NHL point on the goal with a stylish pass to Shaw.
Alone in the slot, Gallagher gave the Canadiens their first lead at 9:12 after a remarkable one-handed pass from a sprawled-out Phillip Danault behind the net. It was Gallagher’s career-high 32nd goal.
The Canadiens opened a 3-1 advantage when Shaw took a saucer pass from Domi and beat Hutton blocker side with a wrist shot at 14:23.
The Sabres responded instantly, scoring 30 seconds later on Nylander’s power-play goal.
A turnover by Jonathan Drouin led to Scandella’s equalizer on a fast break at 16:08 on Buffalo’s 14th shot of the game.
The Sabres failed to complete the season sweep after winning the first three games against the Canadiens this year.
“It was good enough that we came back, but we made mistakes that they capitalized on,” Nylander said. “We have to clean that up.”
NOTES: Jason Pominville was back in the Sabres lineup after being a healthy scratch the last two games.
Sabres: At New Jersey on Monday night.
Canadiens: At Carolina on Sunday night.