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02/07/2013 11:39 PM EST
Vanek rallies Sabres to 5-4 shootout win over Habs
BUFFALO 5, MONTREAL 4 (OT)

By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Thomas Vanek is off to a prolific start.
And this time, the Sabres forward finally got a win to go with
his production.



Vanek scored twice Thursday night, including jamming in the
tying goal during a scramble in front with 2 seconds left in
regulation. Then he came through in the shootout as Buffalo
overcame a two-goal, third-period deficit to pull out a 5-4 win
over the Montreal Canadiens.



Vanek upped his NHL-leading total to 21 points (10 goals, 11
assists). More important, he played an integral role in ending
the Sabres' three-game skid and delivering their second win in
nine games (2-6-1).



"It's great," Vanek said. "It means we get to not go home all
frustrated tonight. Enjoy the win. Probably going to sleep
better. Wake up tomorrow and go for the next one."



It was an uplifting win for a high-priced Sabres team that's
lacked consistency and identity, and spent part of the game
Thursday being booed for the second straight time at home. The
first came on Sunday, when the Sabres squandered a two-goal lead
in a 4-3 loss to Florida.



"We knew we had to keep grinding away at it," coach Lindy Ruff
said. "We were finding ways to lose, and we found a way to win."



Jason Pominville also scored in the shootout and Ryan Miller
clinched the victory by making a left pad save to stop Brian
Gionta on Montreal's final opportunity. Tyler Ennis had a goal
and two assists, while Steve Ott had a goal and an assist for
Buffalo.



Tomas Plekanec scored twice for Montreal (6-3-1), which has
dropped two straight - including a 2-1 loss to Boston on
Wednesday. P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher also scored for the
Canadiens.



Backup goalie Peter Budaj stopped 36 shots in his second start
of the season.



"It's tough," Budaj said. "When you score four goals on the road
you pretty much should win. I thought we did enough good things.
We made a few mistakes and got punished for it. It's a tough way
to go, especially when you're up two goals."



Budaj and the Canadiens appeared to be headed for a regulation
victory after spending much of the final minute denying the
Sabres a chance to even gain the Montreal zone. That changed
with about 10 seconds left, when Marcus Foligno drove up the
right wing, skated behind the net and flipped the puck into the
crease.



Ennis got two whacks at the puck only to be stopped by Budaj.
With a tangle of bodies lying in the crease, it was Vanek who
dived in and somehow managed to poke the puck through the
goalie's legs with 1.9 seconds showing on the clock.



Referee Tim Peel, parked behind the net, immediately ruled it a
goal, which was confirmed after a video review.



Budaj wondered whether Peel could have blown the play dead a
split-second earlier.



"The big question is whether the referee saw the puck," Budaj
said. "I'm not blaming the referees or anything. It happened in
a split-second and it was a matter of opinion."



Vanek never lost sight of the puck and dived into the pile of
bodies hoping he could get a piece of it.



"I was patient. Once I saw it there, I just jumped at it and got
a good whack at it," said Vanek, who knew time was running out.
"I saw that black little thing and jumped on it. If the buzzer
went, so be it."



The goals came late in a game in which Vanek thought he had
squandered several scoring chances in the second period.



"I thought to myself that maybe it was one of those nights where
it wasn't going to go in," Vanek said. "But I said, `Stick with
it.' As a team we stuck with it and we got rewarded."



The Canadiens appeared to take control when Plekanec scored on a
breakaway 45 seconds into the third period to make it 4-2.



Subban made it 3-2 by one-timing a shot from the left circle
with 1:28 left in the second. It came during a two-man advantage
after Cody Hodgson (hooking) and Ott (high-sticking) were
penalized 33 seconds apart.



Subban extended his point streak to four games (two goals, two
assists), all coming since making his season debut in a 6-1 win
over Buffalo last weekend after signing a two-year, $5.75
million contract.



NOTES: The Sabres went 1 of 7 on the power play and squandered
their own two-man advantage that spanned 46 seconds early in the
second period. ... Canadiens LW Travis Moen missed his first
game of the season because of a lower-body injury sustained
Wednesday. ... Montreal has scored a power-play goal in nine of
10 games. ... The Sabres are 117-101-37 against Montreal, their
most wins against any opponent.

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