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Sabres turn on the power Afinogenov's goal beats Habs in OT Sabres vs. Canadiens: Miller makes 30 saves as win streak reaches six

MONTREAL -- The Buffalo Sabres' power play had been silent for three games. It woke up Tuesday night, rendering a rollicking Bell Centre silent.

Maxim Afinogenov scored his second goal of the game 30 seconds into overtime while on a five-on-three power play, and the Sabres extended their winning streak to six games with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

It took time to get to overtime because the referees had to determine how many players should be on the ice. It's normally four-on-four in overtime, but at the end of regulation time Buffalo's Henrik Tallinder had five seconds remaining in his penalty, while the Habs' Saku Koivu had 1:02 left and Steve Begin had 1:53 to go.

The Sabres started four-on-three, then got it to five-on-three when Tallinder returned. Canadiens goalie Cristobal Huet stopped the initial shot by Chris Drury. The rebound came to Drury, who pushed the puck over to Afinogenov, who banked home the winner.

"I don't know how Chris didn't score -- it was an empty net for him," Afinogenov said. "But the goalie made a save and the puck ended up on my stick."

In order to beat the Canadiens, the Sabres had to beat Huet. No one had been able to do that recently. The goaltender was coming off back-to-back shutouts, and he would have been the NHL's top defender last week if it weren't for one person.

That person is Ryan Miller. The reigning NHL Defensive Player of the Week continued his stellar play Tuesday. Miller turned aside 30 shots, and Derek Roy also found the net to extend the Sabres' streak.

The Canadiens thought they won the game with 1:21 to play, when Michael Ryder got the puck past Miller on a power play. But it was immediately waved off because Ryder batted the puck in with his hand, and video review affirmed the call.

"Our guys [assistant coaches] upstairs said right away that it looked like he punched it in," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "But you still have to sweat it out because you never know what's going to happen."

Afinogenov finally solved Huet 5:43 into the second period with the Sabres' first power-play goal in four games. With Francis Bouillon off on a borderline tripping call that incensed the crowd, Roy worked along the boards and pushed the puck to Afinogenov. He cut to the front and put a backhand just inside the post.

It was the first goal allowed by Huet in 173 minutes and 19 seconds. He went eight periods without the red light flashing behind him. The Frenchman has clearly won over the French Canadian fans, as they chanted his name -- pronounced "Hugh-eh" -- seven times during the opening period.

Montreal tied it at 1 midway through the second. The Sabres were on the power play again, but Chris Higgins converted a two-on-one with Tomas Plekanec that started just outside the Buffalo zone. It was the 11th short-handed goal allowed by the Sabres this season. Washington entered Tuesday as the worst team in the league with 12 allowed.

"You don't want to give up that shorthanded goal, but that's what happens when you try to take chances," defenseman Teppo Numminen said.

Roy sent the Sabres into the dressing room on a high, however, scoring with just 5.9 seconds left in the second. He drew the faceoff to Numminen along the Montreal boards, and the now-historic defenseman found Brian Campbell at the point. Roy deflected Campbell's shot past Huet.

"It wasn't really a clean win [on the faceoff]," Roy said. "Teppo pushed it back to the point and I got to the net. Draws are a big thing."

Numminen's assist gave him 29 for the season with no goals to go with it, tying the NHL record for most assists without a goal set by Toronto's Jimmy Thomson in 1947-48.

"I don't know what to say. But I guess an NHL record is an NHL record," Numminen said.

Alexei Kovalev re-ignited the 21,273 fanatics with just 3:36 left in the third period, getting behind Campbell for a breakaway. He head-faked then beat Miller to the stick side to tie the game at 2-all.

The teams continue their home-and-away series Thursday night in HSBC Arena.

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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