Habs survive Sabres' scare

Michael Ryder's goal late in the third period quashed the Buffalo Sabres' comeback effort and gave the Canadiens a 4-3 win Saturday night in Montreal.

Michael Ryder's goallate in the third period quashed the Buffalo Sabres' comeback effort and gave the Canadiens a 4-3 win Saturday night in Montreal.

Power-play goals by Guillaume Latendresse and Saku Koivu and an even-strength marker by Francis Bouillon had the Canadiens up 3-0 early in the second before Buffalo stormed back with a pair of goals by Daniel Briere and another by Derek Roy.

Martin Biron made 37 saves for the Sabres, but couldn't stop Ryder'sshot off an Alexander Perezhogin rushwith 2:53 left in the third.

"It was good to come out with a win, especially when we were up like that," Ryder said. "It seemed like every mistake we made, they capitalized on it."

Ryder'sgoal gave the Canadiens their third win in six meetings this season with theEastern Conference leaders. Two of Montreal's losses came in overtime or a shootout.

"I don't know what it is, but every time we play against them we play very well," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We match up well with them."

Cristobal Huet made 24 saves for Montreal (27-17-5), which heads into the All-Star break 11 points behind Buffalo (33-12-4) in the Northeast Division standings.

Briere, Campbell and Sabres No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller will join Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Sourayasstarters for the NHL All-Star Game Wednesday night in Dallas.

Briere keys comeback

Montreal's opening power-play goal was a strange one. Tomas Plekanec's dump-in hit an irregularity in the boards before Biron could corral it, causing the puck to squirt in front to Latendresse for an easy tap-in.

After Koivu's goal gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead at the first intermission, Bouillon stretched the advantage by pinching in to snap a long rebound past Biron at 4:49 of the second.

With Montreal poised to turn the game into a laugher, Briere got the Sabres on the board at 9:04 of the second by converting a rebound from his camp at the side of the net. Before the period was out, asharp-angle wrist shot by Royhad Buffalo within one.

The Sabres got the equalizer 8:37 into the third on a smooth (if somewhat fortunate) give-and-go by their pair of All-Star skaters.

With the Canadiens on their heels in their own zone, Briere circled the net to make a pass back to Campbell, who fired a hardfeed through traffic that hit Briere's skate as he charged to the net anddeflected in.

"Right off the bat you could tell they had more jump, we just had to weather the storm," Briere said. "But we never quit and managed to come back in the second half."

With files from the Canadian Press