BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Rookie goalie Dustin Tokarski stopped 29 shots to earn his first NHL shutout in the Montreal Canadiens’ 2-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night.
Brendan Gallagher and Dale Weise scored for the Canadiens (37-25-7), who vaulted into second place in the Atlantic Division by jumping ahead of Toronto and Tampa Bay. Tokarski improved 2-0 this season and 3-3-1 for his career after being called up from AHL Hamilton earlier in the day.
Tokarski was filling in for starter Carey Price, who didn’t make the trip a day after stopping 30 shots in a 5-4 overtime win against the Senators in his first NHL start since Feb. 8.
Coach Michel Therrien was wary of playing Price on consecutive nights after the goalie aggravated a lower body injury during Canada’s gold-medal run at the Sochi Games.
The league-worst Sabres (19-41-8) lost their sixth straight in regulation — their worst streak since losing seven in a row from Dec. 4-19, 2003.
Buffalo is also running out of healthy goalies after starter Jhonas Enroth left the game following a collision with Gallagher with 3:51 remaining in the second period. Gallagher was breaking up the left side and had just gotten a shot off when he was struck from behind by Buffalo defenseman Jamie McBain and tumbled directly into Enroth.
Enroth lay on the ice for a few minutes before he got up and attempted to stretch his right leg while being examined by a trainer. Enroth then skated to the bench and was escorted into the locker room.
Enroth did not return after sustaining what the Sabres announced to be a lower body injury.
Rookie Nathan Lieuwen was forced into action, stopping all 10 shots he faced in his NHL debut after being called up from AHL Rochester earlier in the day. The Sabres were already down a goalie with backup Michal Neuvirth sidelined with a lower body injury.
Before the game, coach Ted Nolan listed Neuvirth day to day, but said it was too early to determine whether he’ll join the team when it opens a five-game road trip at Calgary on Tuesday.
That opens the possibility of Buffalo having to call up Matt Hackett from Rochester. Hackett has appeared in 13 NHL games.
The Canadiens were coming off a remarkable comeback win over Ottawa, in which they became the NHL’s first team to win after trailing by three goals in the final 5 minutes of regulation. The Canadiens scored three times in the final 3:22 and then won on Francis Bouillon’s goal 1:26 into overtime.
Montreal didn’t require any late-game dramatics against a Buffalo opponent that has managed a league-worst 132 goals on the season, and held to five in its past six games.
A pair of opportunistic bounces — one off Weise’s skate and another off Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel leg — over a span of 1:26 was enough to provide the Canadiens a 2-0 lead with 3:53 left in the opening period.
Weise was credited with the opening goal after Enroth got a piece of David Desharnais’ bouncing backhand from the slot. The rebound struck Weise in the skate and into the net.
Gallagher was credited with the next goal after he was the last Montreal player to touch the puck. Driving up the right wing, Gallagher snapped a hard rising shot which Enroth knocked down with his blocker. The rebound, however, bounced into the slot, off Ruhwedel’s leg and rolled inside the left post.
The Sabres hardly mustered a challenge, with linemates Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis creating the few opportunities.
Stafford had a shot go off the right post with 12:47 left in regulation. He also had a solid chance 6:40 into the game, when he streaked up the right side and then drove across the middle only to have his backhand stopped by Tokarski.
NOTES: Canadiens LW Thomas Vanek played his first game at Buffalo since the Sabres traded him to the New York Islanders in October. The Canadiens acquired Vanek in a deal with the Isles two weeks ago. Vanek drew a standing ovation during a first-period break, after the Sabres broadcast a series of highlights on their videoboard. … Buffalo will close the season playing 10 of its final 14 games on the road. … Sabres coach Ted Nolan expects C Torrey Mitchell to be ready to return Tuesday, after missing his sixth game with a lower body injury.
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