Sabres come home from successful trip to face Canadiens
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The Buffalo Sabres hope to maintain the momentum gained from a strong finish to a 3-2-0 Western road trip when they return home to play the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
The Sabres completed their 10-day trip with a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and a gritty 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
The victory in Anaheim was considered especially significant. Buffalo took 45 shots and dominated play for long periods, but former Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was a standout and the Ducks were able to take a 2-0 lead.
"We just never changed the way that we played," Sabres right winger Kyle Okposo said. "That second goal could have been a backbreaker for us, but we just stuck with it. We played the exact same way, and we got rewarded."
"We obviously deserved to win this game, just the way we played," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "But it's a credit to our leadership group for keeping the guys together and as a tight group. They talk a lot in that room, saying the right things and are leading by example. It's a feather in their cap the way they've worked."
The Canadiens (5-1-2) defeated the Calgary Flames 3-2 on Tuesday night at home as Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to five games (three goals, four assists).
The game against the Flames was a positive response to a 4-3 overtime loss to the Senators at Ottawa on Saturday in which the Canadiens wasted a 3-1 lead.
"That's the point we talked about last year when we had stretches when you just keep losing," Drouin said. "Any good teams will tell you that you can't lose two or three in a row. That's where you get in a hole."
Goaltender Carey Price stopped 21 shots in his 289th career victory, tying Patrick Roy for No. 2 on the Canadiens' franchise list. Jacques Plante leads with 314.
Price is coming off the worst season of his career, going 16-26-7 with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. He is off to a better start this season.
"I'm getting there," Price said. "Obviously, I haven't had to be extraordinary yet this year."
Habs coach Claude Julien said he is not satisfied with his team's better than expected start.
"If you ask me at any time in the season whether I'm satisfied, I'll tell you I'm not because we can always be better," Julien said. "I may tell you I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied."
The Sabres (5-4-0) were bouncing back from losses to the Vegas Golden Knights and the San Jose Sharks when they defeated the Kings and Ducks.
"We can learn a lot from that Los Angeles game," Sabres center Johan Larsson said. "It's the game you have to play every night. Simple, score on your chances, be good on special teams. That's the NHL. And that game was a really good wake-up call that we carried over."
"You never know what the outcome is going to be, but I just like the way our guys responded in both games, especially in L.A.," Housley said. "It was really important to get back to .500 and we set ourselves up for a good road trip."
The Sabres have five wins in October for the first time since 2011. They entered this season with the NHL's worst October record since the 2013 lockout at 14-37-6.
"We're executing better, becoming a tighter group," Housley said. "It's good we've had a little success. We can't rest on it, but it breeds confidence for the rest of our group."
Updated October 24, 2018