Kyle Okposo's power-play goal with 1:01 left in the third period gave the Buffalo Sabres their only lead of the night and they held on for a pulsating 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday in KeyBank Center.
Okposo's goal, a wrist shot from the right circle, came 18 seconds after former Sabre Joel Armia was sent off for tripping. It was the Sabres' second power-play goal of the game. Jeff Skinner got his third assist of the night on the goal, which gave the Sabres their third straight win and pushed their record to 6-4. Rasmus Dahlin also assisted.
It was a game that saw the Canadiens take the lead three times and the Sabres rally to tie each time. Buffalo dominated in shots on goal, 42-22, as Montreal backup goalie Antti Niemi had a stellar game in net while giving starter Carey Price the night off. The count was 15-4 in the third period.
The Sabres had pulled into a 3-3 tie with 6:53 on Sam Reinhart's first goal of the season, a tap-in at the edge of the crease off a Jake McCabe feed.
Jason Pominville scored two goals, with Jake McCabe collecting two assists each for the Sabres. Max Domi scored twice for Montreal.
Quick start: Domi opened the scoring for Montreal at 1:17 of the first period, streaking down the slot and firing a laser past Carter Hutton on the glove side.
The Population Part I: Pominville got the Sabres even at 11:22 of the second period, taking a pass from Skinner on a 2-on-1 beating Montreal backup Antti Niemi on his second whack at the puck in the crease.
Old Friend Gets Revenge: The Canadiens pulled into a 2-1 lead at 16:08 of the second as Armia pulled a loose puck from the side of the goal, curled around the net and beat Hutton on a wraparound. The Sabres were upset an icing wasn't called on the play but it was ruled that 18-year-old Habs center Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the No. 3 pick in the draft in June, beat Marco Scandella to the faceoff dot to nullify the icing.
Armia, Buffalo's No. 1 draft pick in 2011, played one game with the Sabres in 2015 in Detroit. He was dealt to Winnipeg as part of the Evander Kane trade and played the last three years for the Jets, scoring a career-high 12 goals last season. He was dealt to Montreal on June 30.
The Population Part II: Pominville pulled Buffalo into another tie on a power play at 17:42, driving a loose puck past Niemi after he took the loose puck out of the crease. Pominville bumped Niemi out of position after being pushed by defenseman Dan Petry but the Montreal goalie pulled himself back into position just as the puck was going into the net. The Habs challenged for goalie interference but Petry's push showed up on the replay and the goal stood.
Heading up the leader board: Pominville's two goals give him 497 points with the Sabres. He's now tied with former linemate Thomas Vanek for 10th all-time in franchise annals. He's also three points shy of becoming the 10th player to get 500 points, and thus tie Danny Gare.
How about this shot? 😱
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) October 26, 2018
Domi Part II: The son of former Toronto tough guy Tie Domi put the Habs back up at 6:34 of the third as he cut down the middle past Jake McCabe and burned Hutton on the stick side. It was Montreal's only shot on goal for the first 12 minutes of the period.
Not working overtime: The Sabres are one of four teams yet to play an overtime game this season — joining Nashville, New Jersey and Dallas — and have gone 22 straight without extending past 60 minutes dating to last season.
The same crew: You don't mess with a winning lineup most of the time and the Sabres kept that axiom in force Thursday by running out the same forward lines and defense pairs that flourished in Southern California.
That meant Jack Eichel centered Skinner and Pominville, Vladimir Sobotka was between Conor Sheary and Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt was between Evan Rodrigues and Okposo and Johan Larsson was the center of the restructured fourth line with Patrik Berglund and Zemgus Girgensons on the wings.
On defense, McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen have become the new top pair. Scandella and the rejuvenated Bogosian are the No. 2 pair, with Dahlin and Casey Nelson also together.
Press box view: Sitting out as healthy scratches were forwards Tage Thompson and Remi Elie, and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who has practiced since taking a shot to the elbow in San Jose but simply is going to have to wait his turn to reclaim his place in the lineup.
Counting the House: The Sabres announced 16,112 tickets were sold for the game. As that would indicate, there were large swaths of empty seats on the corners in the 300 level. It's the fourth time in five home games this year the Sabres have failed to crack the 17,000 mark in tickets sold, something that has rarely happened the last 10 years.
Up next: The Sabres practice Friday morning at HarborCenter before heading to Columbus, where they will meet the BlueJackets Saturday night at 7. The next home game is Tuesday night against Calgary.