Habs aim to rebound in Buffalo

The Montreal Canadiens will try to get back in the win column when they visit the Buffalo Sabres for Thursday's Northeast Division battle at First Niagara Center.

The Canadiens lost for just the second time in seven games on Tuesday, dropping a 3-2 regulation decision against visiting Washington. Failing to get a point in that game would come back to haunt the Habs on Wednesday, when Boston beat New Jersey to move one point ahead of the Canadiens for the Northeast Division lead.

The Bruins also play Thursday evening against the visiting New York Islanders. Both Boston and Montreal have nine games left in the regular season, but none against each other.

Montreal scored first against the Capitals, but the visitors responded with three straight goals, ending with Jack Hillen's game-winner at 5:33 of the third period. Lars Eller cut the deficit to 3-2 with 3:22 left in regulation, but the Habs couldn't produce the tying goal.

Eller scored both goals for the Canadiens and Carey Price turned aside 24 shots in the loss. Montreal had won four straight on home ice before dropping Tuesday's decision.

"We weren't quite there today," said Eller. "They got two points they shouldn't have had. The first 10 minutes of the game, we weren't hard enough on the puck. We were a step behind many times and in the second period they got momentum."

Montreal has lost two of its last three games on the road, but still boasts an excellent 12-4-2 mark as the guest this season.

Although Buffalo is 17 points behind Montreal in the standings, the Sabres have fared very well against the Habs in 2013. After losing the season series' opener in Montreal on Feb. 2, the Sabres have won three straight versus the Canadiens.

Buffalo has claimed five of six and 11 of 13 overall in the series and the Canadiens have lost three straight and four of their past five trips to Western New York.

The Sabres are still battling for a playoff berth and they enter Thursday's action as the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference. That leaves Buffalo six points out of a postseason spot.

Buffalo had won three straight before dropping a 4-1 decision at Winnipeg on Tuesday. Kyle Wellwood, Aaron Gagnon and Andrew Ladd all scored in the second period to lead the Jets to the easy win at MTS Centre.

"I thought we were okay," said Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston. "There were too many times there, especially in the second, where we gave up too much easy offense. It just wasn't good enough."

Kevin Porter lit the lamp and Ryan Miller stopped 26 shots for the Sabres, who are in danger of missing the postseason for the second straight spring.

Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek returned Tuesday after missing the previous six games with an upper body injury. Vanek, who leads Buffalo in goals (16) and points (33) this season, failed to reach the scoresheet against the Jets.

Fellow forward Ville Leino is expected to sit out a sixth straight game tonight with an upper body issue of his own.

Buffalo is 8-7-3 as the host this season and is kicking off a three-game homestand on Thursday.