Benefiting from the Buffalo Sabres’ best offensive night in three weeks, goalie Patrick Lalime was finally rewarded with a victory.
Lalime stopped the first 36 shots he faced – including 18 in the first period – and Derek Roy scored consecutive goals in leading Buffalo to a 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
“It was only a matter of time before we got some goals,” said Lalime, who snapped an 0-5-1 skid and won his first game since Dec. 13. “It’s nice playing with a lead.
“It makes everybody’s job easier.”
It started and ended with Lalime, who hasn’t had this much offensive support since a 7-1 win at Long Island on Oct. 13.
And that was particularly evident over this past week, in which Lalime went 0-2-1 in three starts despite allowing only six goals while filling in with Ryan Miller sidelined by a sprained ankle.
“It’s awesome,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We knew we had a good goalie and he’s really stepped up for us in Ryan’s absence. That’s not easy. There’s a lot of pressure there.”
Paul Gaustad also scored two goals, and defenceman Jaroslav Spacek had a goal and assist. The five goals were two more than the Sabres managed in their past three games, and allowed them to move into a tie with Carolina for ninth place in the tightly contested Eastern Conference standings.
Thomas Plekanec converted a rebound in front to spoil Lalime’s shutout bid with 1:06 left.
The fifth-place Canadiens had a four-game win streak snapped and continued to struggle on the road, falling to 2-10-1 in their past 13 games away from Montreal.
Montreal dropped to 14-17-3 on the road after going 25-12-4 last season.
“If we can’t adjust to play on the road, then we don’t deserve to be in the playoffs,” coach Guy Carbonneau said, while lamenting the numerous opportunities his team missed in breaking the game open early.
“I mean 18 shots in the first period and we were down by one goal. We had chances, but we didn’t get the bounces we deserved. … We just didn’t sustain it in the second period.”
Lalime was the difference in a game the Sabres were outshot 18-3 through the first 15 minutes.
He got his blocker out to stop Alex Kovalev, who got off a hard shot from the right circle following a Sabres turnover.
He also got help during a scramble in front six minutes in, when Matt D’Agostini got two backhanders off from in close.
Lalime got his shoulder up to get a piece of the second shot, but the puck had enough momentum to get behind him and was rolling precariously across the crease before defenceman Toni Lydman swept it away.
Roy opened the scoring with 2:07 left in the first by taking advantage of a fortunate bounce. Spacek’s shot from the right circle went off a defender and bounced in front, where Roy backhanded a shot in the open left side.
Roy, set up in front by Daniel Paille’s blind pass from the corner, made it 2-0 early into the second period.
Spacek then scored midway through the period by jumping on a loose puck in the neutral zone and, bursting around flat-footed defenceman Patrice Brisebois at the blue line, blasted in a shot from the left circle.
Canadiens goalie Carey Price didn’t get much help as the Sabres took advantage of poor defensive reads, bad bounces and Gaustad converting on a short-handed breakaway midway through the third period.
Price was making his first start in five games, filling in while Jaroslav Halak recovers from the flu. Price has gone 0-5-1 in his past six games, allowing 28 goals.
“It’s just the way it’s going right now,” Price said. “I didn’t feel that great to be honest. I felt a little rusty. I have to play better.”
Notes: Thomas Vanek returned to the Sabres after missing nine games because of a broken jaw. Vanek didn’t figure into the scoring, but his presence helped the Sabres score their most goals since a 6-5 win against San Jose on Feb. 13. … Lalime won his first game at Buffalo in five starts since the Sabres signed him as a free agent last summer. … The Canadiens went 0-for-5 on the power play, ending a five-game streak in which they scored 11 times on 25 chances.