The Montreal Canadiens came up with a strong 40 minutes but it was mistakes in the final period that ultimately cost them.
Brad Boyes and Thomas Vanek scored in a shootout as the Buffalo Sabres rallied to a 3-2 win over the Canadiens on Monday night.
Montreal held a 2-0 lead heading into the third and appeared to be on its way to securing a third straight win. But Jason Pominville scored just 53 seconds into the frame, bringing the Sabres to life as they outshot the home side 10-4.
“They were coming at us wave after wave and we couldn't answer back,” said defenceman P.K. Subban. “It was a matter of keeping things simple and moving puck up the ice and we didn't do that.
“There could be a million excuses but the fact is they wanted it more than we did.”
Derek Roy scored at 12:30 of third to tie the game for Buffalo (11-7-0), which has won four of its last five games. Vanek had an assist on Roy's goal.
Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole scored for the Canadiens (7-7-3), who enjoyed the bulk of the chances in the opening period, outshooting the Sabres 10-6, but couldn't get anything past Jhonas Enroth.
The Swedish netminder made 25 saves in regulation and overtime, and stopped two of three in the shootout in place of injured starter Ryan Miller. He remains unbeaten (6-0) for the Sabres this season.
“It makes my job easier when you have Vanek and Boyes and guys like that as the shooters,” said Enroth. “They're pretty much 100 per cent.”
Miller sustained a concussion Saturday night in a collision with Boston forward Milan Lucic in the Sabres' 6-2 loss to Boston. Lucic, who got a minor penalty for the hit, did not receive any additional sanctions following his hearing earlier in the day with league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan.
Carey Price made 31 saves.
Already dealing with a depleted defence, Montreal saw its blue-line depth take another hit in the early in the second period. Jaroslav Spacek left with an upper body injury leaving the Canadiens with just five defencemen.
While he is considered day-to-day, Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin wasn't certain he'd be available for Wednesday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“We finished the game with one veteran — Josh Gorges,” Martin said. The others — (Yannick) Weber, Subban, (Rapahel) Diaz, (Alexei) Emelin — they're all young guys. There's nothing we can do about it. (Andrei) Markov, (Chris) Campoli, (Hal) Gill and Spacek weren't there, so we have to work with the players we have.”
Martin relied heavily on Subban, Weber and Gorges in Spacek's absence. Subban was the most utilized, with a game-high 27:37 of ice time.
“I felt fine. Personally, when I play a lot of minutes I play better,” said Subban, a second-year blue-liner. “You're out there; you're in the game; you feel in the game; you can relax; you don't have to worry when your next shift is. You know when you're going to be put out there.
“I can only speak for myself but I felt great.”
The Canadiens also lost centre Andreas Engqvist to injury in the middle frame. The 23-year-old was called up earlier in the day from the club's AHL team in Hamilton.
“You don't control that,” Martin said of his battered line-up. “I think you've just got to fight through it and hopefully you're better for it in the long run.”
Montreal's struggling power play broke the ice at 3:58 of the second. Subban sent a Max Pacioretty pass over to Cole who ripped a slap shot from the left faceoff circle for his fourth of the season.
Pacioretty doubled the Canadiens' lead late at 14:17 when his shot fluttered and just trickled to the right of Enroth and into the net.
The Sabres took advantage of a Subban turnover to even up the score at 12:30 of the final period. Vanek picked up the loose puck and sent it to Roy, who converted his sixth of the season on a delayed penalty against the Canadiens.
Notes: The Canadiens were missing defenceman Hal Gill (sick) and wingers Michael Cammalleri (lower body) and Andrei Kostitsyn (lower body). ... The Sabres were without Miller (concussion) and forwards Jochen Hecht (concussion) and Tyler Ennis (ankle). Defenceman Tyler Myers was a healthy scratch.