Habs try to stay hot in home tilt vs. lowly Sabres

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(SportsNetwork.com) - After taking over first place in the Atlantic Division last time out, the Montreal Canadiens take aim at a season-high fifth straight victory on Saturday night as they play host to the Buffalo Sabres.

Montreal trailed division-leading Boston by a point in the standings ahead of Thursday's meeting at the Bell Centre, but jumped into first place after beating the Bruins 2-1 in regulation.

Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty had the goals, while Carey Price notched 32 saves and allowed less than three goals for a ninth straight outing.

Montreal is on its third four-game win streak of the season and is 8-0-1 in its last nine games, as well as 10-1-2 in the last 13.

"They came out strong, you have to give the Bruins credit for that," said Habs coach Michel Therrien. "But we adjusted really well. We played with desperation in the second period. We knew the importance of tonight's game and a lot of credit goes to my players. I think they left it on the ice and emptied the tank."

Pacioretty netted his team-leading 11th goal of the season, one more than Plekanec, and nine of those tallies have come in his last nine games. He managed to score the go-ahead goal late in the second period after shaking off a scary incident in the first period.

Boston lost defenseman Johnny Boychuk when he went into the left-corner boards to chase down a puck. He was pushed from behind by Pacioretty and hit the boards head first.

Boychuk laid on the ice for several minutes with trainers attending to him. He was conscious the whole time and his body was immobilized before he was carted off the ice on a stretcher.

Pacioretty was issued a boarding minor on the play at 4:28 and said the play shook him up a bit.

The 25-year-old, of course, was taken off the ice on a stretcher during an encounter with Boston on March 8, 2011 after the Bruins' Zdeno Chara drilled him into the stanchion at the end of the bench. Pacioretty suffered a concussion and fractured vertebrae as a result of the hit.

"I honestly had no intention of even really hitting somebody. I was making a play and battling in the corner," said Pacioretty, who hadn't seen a replay of the hit. "I can't comment on how the hit went because I honestly don't really know. It seemed like it was a battle play."

The Sabres will try to earn a victory tonight following Thursday's 3-1 setback to the New York Rangers. Buffalo did not get its lone goal in that loss until Tyler Ennis' tally with 2:06 left to play and fell to 1-6-1 in its last eight games.

"Same problems. Another day where we've got to search for the answers," said Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan. "There's no one going to ride in here and fix it for us. We have to fix it ourselves. We have to look in the mirror at what we can do to try to correct this thing to try to make it better."

Ryan Miller gave up three goals on 31 shots in his NHL-worst 16th setback of the season. He shouldered a bulk of the blame for the loss afterwards.

"It was a better hockey game than we've seen earlier in the year and it's my job to give them a chance to be in the game and I blew that part of it. Not a lot of room for error, so we got to make it count," said Miller, who criticized himself on two of the goals he allowed.

"There's a certain standard I have to play to and that's a one-goal game with the ability for this team to tie it late and get points out of it. That's the difference tonight. I thought the guys were better as the game went on."

These two clubs met for the first time this season on Nov. 27, with the Canadiens winning a 3-1 decision in Buffalo. Miller made 28 saves in the loss, while Price notched 24 saves to earn the win.

Montreal improved to 3-1-2 in the past six meetings overall, but the Sabres have won seven of the last eight at the Bell Centre.

Miller is 25-11-6 with a 2.35 goals against average in his career versus the Habs, while Price is 11-9-7 with a 2.00 GAA lifetime when facing the Sabres.