One night after ending their archrival’s longest winning streak in 43 years, the Montreal Canadiens have a shot to accomplish something they haven’t in 35 years.
They can clinch their first season series sweep of the visiting Buffalo Sabres since 1978-79 on Tuesday night.
Montreal (40-26-7) has won five of six, with no victory bigger than Monday’s 2-1 shootout victory in Boston to snap the Bruins’ 12-game winning streak. After Alexei Emelin and Patric Bergeron traded power-play goals in regulation, Alex Galchenyuk was the only player to score in the four-round shootout – giving the Canadiens their sixth win in their last seven shootouts and pulling them even with Tampa Bay in the Atlantic, though the Lightning have a game in hand.
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"That’s kind of nice to be able to end their streak," defenseman Mike Weaver told the team’s website after playing in his eighth game for Montreal since being acquired from Florida. "It would have been even better to end it in regulation but obviously coming in here, everybody was talking about their 12 wins. They’re a really good team and they’re on a high right now. These games are so important. Every point matters and it was a great team win."
Budaj, who got the nod after Carey Price had made three straight starts, stopped the first 26 Boston shots he saw and helped Montreal kill off 5 of 6 penalties against one of the league’s top power-play units. The Canadiens improved to 31-0-3 when leading after two periods.
"We are very confident with him back there," said Brian Gionta, who assisted on Emelin’s goal. "That first period he made some huge saves and even in the second he made some big saves where they could have been back in the game real quick."
Montreal has won four straight against Buffalo – including three meetings this season – and will look for a fifth consecutive victory over the Sabres for the first time since Dec. 20, 1979. The four wins prior to that one marked the Canadiens’ last season series sweep of Buffalo.
The league-worst Sabres (20-43-8) have lost eight of nine while scoring one or no goals in six of those defeats. Four of their last six losses have also come despite taking a 1-0 lead, including Sunday’s 4-2 loss at Vancouver.
Tyler Ennis and Jamie McBain gave them a 2-0 edge in the first 3:29, but the Canucks evened the score before the end of the period and added a goal in each of the final two periods. Former Sabre Zack Kassian assisted on each of Vancouver’s goals.
The Sabres, who were outshot 36-18, own an average shots-on-goal differential of minus-8.44, which ranks last in the NHL.
"In this league you can’t play good sometimes," coach Ted Nolan said. "You’ve got to play good all the time. That’s a lesson to learn and something we have to do to move forward."
Ennis has eight goals and seven assists over his last 18 games.