Sabres Hand Montreal First Loss


The Montreal Canadiens went out of their way to settle some scores left over from last season's playoff loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

Scott Thornton went after Sabres enforcer Matthew Barnaby only six seconds into Saturday night's game and the Canadiens raced to a 3-0 lead.

But the Sabres roared back with four goals, stealing a 4-3 victory and giving the Canadiens even more to think about.

"They were trying to make a statement out there, that's for sure," said Sabres forward Dixon Ward, who scored the tying goal early in the third period and assisted on Vaclav Varada's winner midway in the period.

"There was certainly a whole lot of bad blood caused from last year. They seemed to be going after Barnaby on every shift. But the dirtier it got, the better we got."

And Ward should know. He broke his nose Friday night against Florida, and was elbowed in the nose by Turner Stevenson early in the game.

"If it wasn't broken before, which I think it was, then I know it is now," Ward said, nose bloodied and swollen. "Maybe it's justice that I got the goal. Because right now, I'm certainly not any better looking."

Ward scored on a wraparound at 2:46 of the third, and his pass later into the slot gave Canadiens goalie Jocelyn Thibault more than he could handle, allowing Varada to flip the puck over Thibault's shoulder.

"He was upset about being elbowed in the face earlier, and that really fired him up," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "Maybe I should give him an elbow before every game. But, seriously, this was a great accomplishment."

The Canadiens (2-1-1) scored two quick goals early in the first and it looked like they would extend their unbeaten record. Benoit Brunet gathered a loose puck at center ice with his team short-handed and beat reigning two-time league MVP Dominik Hasek between the legs.

Just over two minutes later, Vladimir Malakhov made the score 2-0, beating Hasek with a low shot.

Vincent Damphousse scored the Canadiens' second short-handed goal of the game late in the second, after Mark Recchi stripped the puck from defenseman Jason Woolley.

But Damphousse also played a part in Buffalo's first goal. Brian Holzinger's point shot went off the Canadiens' captain and past Thibault at the 16:01 mark of the second.

At the 18:18 mark, and again on the power play, the Sabres scored another deflected goal. Mike Peca's attempted pass went off Stephane Quintal's stick and behind Thibault.

"I hate playing that team," Thibault said. "It seems every time I play them they score a lucky goal."

The Sabres (2-1-1) haven't lost to the Canadiens in Montreal since March of 1996, going 5-0-2.

"It's not something we talk about," Peca said. "But it seems every time we play them it's a big game. It's always televied nationally or something. And it's always special playing in Toronto and Montreal.

"Tonight, their emotions seemed to slide a little bit at the end."

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