MONTREAL (AP) — The long drought is over for the struggling Sabres.
Buffalo scored three times in the first period and Jonas Enroth made 32 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens that ended a franchise-record, 14-game losing streak Tuesday night.
Players raised their arms in triumph as they gathered around Enroth after the team’s first victory since a shootout win Dec. 27 against the New York Islanders. It was Buffalo’s first victory in regulation in 21 games since beating Calgary 4-3 on Dec. 11.
“I hope it allows us to relax a bit,” Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges said. “Just go out and play. Not think about all the bad things that could happen. Just go out there and play the game, have some fun doing it and, hopefully, get some confidence back.”
Former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, who signed with Buffalo last summer, got the game-winner late in a three-goal first period for the Sabres (15-33-3), who remain last overall in the NHL. Drew Stafford and Matt Moulson also scored.
Brandon Prust and David Desharnais had the goals for the Canadiens (32-15-3), who have lost two in a row at home.
Montreal had a 34-18 shots advantage.
In Buffalo’s postgame dressing room, the mood was relief.
“It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks, no doubt,” Gorges said. “We’ve had games where we play well in spurts, but then we’d always find a way to beat ourselves.
“We had mental lapses that cost us. And when you get in those situations you become a bit of a fragile team, especially as young as we are. Any time adversity hit during a game we seemed to crumble. So to get this win takes a bit of weight off us.”
The Sabres won three of four meetings and took seven of eight points from Montreal this season.
“For some reason we played well against them this year,” Gionta said. “But at this point, it was more about getting the win and getting on the right track. It definitely feels good.”
The Sabres were three losses short of the NHL record for consecutive defeats set by the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks.
The Canadiens, coming off a 3-2 loss to Arizona, have only six goals in their last four games, two of which were 1-0 wins thanks to shutouts by Carey Price.
“One game, one line is hot and the next game, it’s another line, but we’d like to score more goals,” center Lars Eller said. “The bottom line is that most of the time, we’ve found ways to win games even if we haven’t been scoring a lot.
“That’s a good thing, but when you lose, it stands out more.”
The game was only 5:21 old when Stafford was left alone in front and scored on his second whack at the puck to put Buffalo ahead. It ended Price’s shutout streak at 158 minutes, 24 seconds.
Prust came out of the penalty box, knocked down Tyler Myers and then finished a 2-on-1 with Desharnais to tie it at 8:15.
But Moulson was alone in front to spin and beat Price between the pads at 14:53, and Gionta’s pass went in off defenseman Nathan Beaulieu’s skate at 19:19.
Desharnais was right on the doorstep to bang in Dale Weise’s feed 4:20 into the third period.
“We weren’t alert on our defensive assignments at the start,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort, it was a lack of focus.”
The Sabres ended a four-game road trip and start a five-game homestand Thursday against St. Louis. The Canadiens next play at home Saturday against New Jersey.
NOTES: Price allowed more than two goals for the first time since Jan. 6. Before that, it was Dec. 6. … Jacob de la Rose made his NHL debut for Montreal and took a regular shift on the third line.
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