The Montreal Canadiens have seen the best and worst of Vladimir Malakhov in the last three games. Saturday night, he was at his worst.
The Canadiens' defenseman committed blunders which led to three goals as the Buffalo Sabres extended their undefeated streak to nine games with a 4-1 win over the Canadiens. Just two games earlier, against Carolina, Malakhov scored three goals.
"With (Stephane Quintal and Dave Manson) out of the lineup, I don't think this was a good night for Vlad to have the kind of game he had," said Montreal coach Alain Vigneault.
The Canadiens were playing without blue-line regulars Stephane Quintal and Dave Manson, who were both out of the lineup with groin injuries.
Jason Woolley, Mike Wilson, Brian Holzinger and Alexi Zhitnik each had goals for the Sabres, who extended their undefeated streak to nine games.
Shayne Corson scored Montreal's goal.
Buffalo goaltender Dominik Hasek stopped 33 shots for his 20th victory.
Hasek stopped all nine Canadiens' shots in the final period, including Martin Rucinsky's shorthanded breakaway.
"To me, he's the best goalie in the league right now," said Rucinsky.
Hasek's next action will be in Nagano as the goalie for the Czech Republic Olympic team with Rucinsky.
"We're playing well right now but I want to play in the Olympics," Hasek said. "I watched the opening ceremonies and I thought about them all day. I was focused on this game but I'm excited to be going."
The Sabres go into the Olympic break with a 5-0-4 record in their last nine games and an 8-2-6 record since Jan. 1, the best mark in the NHL. Montreal is now winless (0-3-1) in their last four home games and 11-12-5 at the Molson Centre this season.
Malakhov made critical defensive errors in each period Saturday.
Early in the third period, he allowed Buffalo defenseman Wilson to skate around him as he scored the Sabres' insurance goal.
In the second, Malakhov lost the puck to Jason Dawe, who then fed Woolley for the second Buffalo goal. And in the opening 20 minutes, Derek Plante stole the puck from Malakhov and sent Holzinger in on a breakaway.
Zhitnik added an empty-net goal late in third period as the Sabres were killing a penalty to team captain Mike Peca.
Malakhov also drew an assist on Corson's second-period goal. Corson deflected Malakhov's high shot past Hasek on a power play to make the score 2-1. Hasek, to that point, had stopped all 20 of Montreal's shots. Corson leads the NHL with 13 power-play goals.
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