These are the types of games that save seasons.
The Buffalo Sabres overcame a two-goal third-period deficit, tying it in the final two seconds before claiming a 5-4 shootout win Thursday over the Montreal Canadiens.
Tyler Myers seemingly coughed up the puck at least once every shift in the early going, but Montreal transitioned from a missed Thomas Vanek opportunity to open the scoring. Rene Bourque passed the puck up to Tomas Plekanec, who backed Myers down from the blue line to inside the left faceoff circle before wristing a shot over Miller's shoulder at 4:11. But only 15 seconds later, Jochen Hecht fed Steve Ott, and he beat Peter Budaj to the the score with his second goal of the season.
"We know that's what he's good at doing," coach Lindy Ruff said of Ott, who also drew a couple Montreal penalties. "He had a great game."
Buffalo got some good shifts from Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno, and this line generated a handful of good scoring chances and upped the physical play. They outplayed the first line early. Thomas Vanek seemed a step behind, while Jason Pominville made a few bad decisions, including passing the puck to the wing while standing alone in front of the Montreal net. But Montreal was able to keep the action in Buffalo's end much of the period, generating 13 shots. Buffalo mustered five shots late in the period but couldn't beat Budaj again.
The Sabres controlled play early in the second period – including a two-man advantage during which they held court in front of the net at will – but they still couldn't take the lead. Buffalo had plenty of chances to take the lead, and those unconverted chances bit the Sabres at 12:31, when Brendan Gallagher took a Brandon Prust pass from the corner after a Foligno miscue and shot it past Miller to give Montreal the lead.
"I don't think I've ever been through a stretch where we've ever made so many poor decisions … that led to great chances," Ruff said.
Buffalo answered on the next shift, with Tyler Ennis taking a Foligno pass and skating up the left wing before putting the puck past Budaj at 13:06 for his fourth goal of the season.
Buffalo failed to convert all four of its powerplay chances in the period, though, as Budaj made 17 saves in the second period alone. And Montreal made good on its two-man advantage late in the period, with P.K. Subban taking an Andrei Markov pass in the slot and rifling it past Miller to make the score 3-2 at the end of the second period. Buffalo was outshooting Montreal after 40 minutes, 28-25.
Montreal only needed 45 seconds in the third period to seemingly put the game away. Plekanec took a Brian Gionta pass and converted a breakaway chance to make the score. Miller got a piece of the puck, but it bounced past him and in. Buffalo finally converted a power play chance eight minutes in, with Vanek backhanding an Ennis rebound easily into the net for his ninth goal (and league-leading 20th point) of the season. Vanek then tied it in the final two seconds of the period amid a wild scrum in front of Budaj, pool-cueing the puck in with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.
"He took a lot of abuse," Ruff said of Vanek. "He did an unbelievable job."
Montreal controlled much of the overtime, applying heavy pressure despite managing just two shots. Buffalo also got two, but neither team converted on their respective chances.
Vanek and Alex Galchenyuk scored in the first shootout round. Ennis and Bourque were stopped in round two. Pominville scored in the third round, and Gionta was stopped to give Buffalo the win.
Thursday's game was the fourth straight game in which Buffalo has surrendered at least four goals. Foligno has three assists on the night, while Ennis had two. Buffalo outshot Montreal for the game, 40-32. Buffalo halted a skid that had the Sabres losing six out of seven. The stretch was so bad that Pominville saw fit to round the team up after the game to salute the fans on the ice.
"We've been finding ways to lose, now we found a way to win," Ruff said. "Pommer's a great captain, and he wanted to do something for the fans."
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