Miller stops 34 in Sabres' 3-0 win over Canadiens

JOHN WAWROW AP Sports Writer Published:

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Ryan Miller made 34 saves for a career-high sixth shutout this season and the Buffalo Sabres continued their late-season push for a playoff spot with a 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Cody Hodgson scored twice and Jason Pominville once to help the Sabres improve to 11-2-4 in their past 17 games and catch the eighth-place Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings. Miller improved to 11-1-3 in his past 15 games, a stretch in which he's allowed only 29 goals.

The shutout was the 28th of Miller's career, and fifth in his past 23 games.

The Canadiens (28-33-9) blew a chance to move out of last place in the East, while losing in regulation for the first time in seven games (3-1-3). With little to lose, Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth pulled goalie Carey Price for an extra attacker with 4 minutes left.

The plan lasted 42 seconds, until Montreal's Erik Cole was penalized for goalie interference.

With nine games left, the Capitals are still eighth because they have played one fewer game, and lead Buffalo 35-27 in the first tiebreaker: non-shootout victories.

The Sabres' climb has still been remarkable. They were 14th place as recently as Feb. 17, and they haven't had a share of eighth place since Dec. 19. Buffalo has gone 16-5-5 in its past 26, which is reminiscent of the team's run last year. That's when the Sabres closed on a 16-4-4 run to clinch a playoff spot on the final weekend of the season.

Sensing the shutout, the sold-out house began chanting "USA! USA!" eight minutes into third period in honor of Miller, who two years ago was the Vancouver Winter Games hockey tournament MVP when he led the United States to a silver medal.

Miller was the busiest in the first period, when he made 15 saves. That included getting his pad out to stop Tomas Plekanec's shot that sneaked in through a crowd from the right boards five minutes in. A few minutes later, Miller was also sharp by moving to his left to prevent Louis Leblanc's wraparound attempt.

His best save came 8:30 into the second period, when Miller scrambled to his right to stop Cole's shot from the circle.

The Canadiens had been off since a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday. The Sabres, meanwhile, were coming off a 7-3 win at Tampa Bay on Monday.

Montreal got off to a fast start, holding a 5-2 edge in shots, but it was the Sabres who struck first.

Hodgson opened the scoring 6:15 in, capping a great individual effort for his first goal in 12 games since being acquired by the Sabres in a trade with Vancouver. The rookie center burst up the right side, cut between Montreal's Aaron Palushaj and Alexei Emelin, and got off a weak shot, which Price easily sticked aside.

Hodgson kept going, chasing down the puck behind the net and wrapping it in off Price, who failed to hug the left post. After failing to get a point in his first 10 games with Buffalo, Hodgson has two goals and two assists in his past two.

After Pominville scored 2:31 into the second period, Hodgson converted Roy's centering pass for a power-play goal 12:45 into the third period.

The Sabres went 5-0-1 against Montreal this season, and improved to 8-0-1 in the past nine meetings against their Northeast Division rival.

Notes: Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta did not play due to an upper body injury. He was replaced by minor-league call up Travis Turnbull, who made his NHL debut. ... Canadiens C Scott Gomez missed his fourth straight game since sustaining a concussion as a result of being blindsided by Sabres D Tyler Myers in Buffalo's 3-2 overtime win on March 12. Myers returned Wednesday after serving a three-game suspension for the hit, which the NHL deemed illegal. ... Sabres D Christian Ehrhoff helped set up Hodgson's goal to earn his 200th career assist. ... Roy had two assists, including his 265th, to move ahead of Mike Foligno into ninth on the team list.