BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)Tage Thompson scored twice, Cody Eakin had a goal and an assist, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Friday night to snap a four-game skid.
Buffalo also got a short-handed goal from Kyle Okposo and won for the third time in 13 games. Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner each had two assists. Dustin Tokarski made 25 saves.
”When we play with confidence, good things happen,” Thompson said. ”It’s fun to play when you’re playing like that.”
Josh Anderson scored for the Canadiens, and Sam Montembeault stopped 35 shots. Montreal has lost six of seven, falling to 1-9-1 on the road.
The Sabres took control in the second period, outshooting the Canadiens 14-2 and scoring twice.
”We kept it simple,” Thompson said. ”Going north, getting pucks behind them, making their D turn. That’s not fun to play against. Eventually you wear on them enough and you get your chances.”
Okposo’s short-handed goal gave Buffalo a 3-1 lead late in the second. The Sabres had killed over three minutes of a double-minor high-sticking penalty on Brett Murray when Eakin created a 2-on-1 on the forecheck, and Okposo backhanded the rebound of his own shot past Montembeault.
”A four-minute power play, you have to score,” Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot said. ”And for them to get a shortie at the end of it, that hurts.”
Eakin scored on a slick backhand pass from Vinnie Hinostroza, putting the Sabres in front midway through the second.
Thompson added his team-leading 10th goal 3 1/2 minutes into the third period. The fifth-year forward surpassed his previous career high of eight goals in 38 games last season.
The goal came shortly after Thompson absorbed a big hit from Alexander Romanov.
”It did nothing but make him more possessed and determined and banging his stick,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. ”He wanted to score again. And he did immediately after the hit.”
Thompson glared at Romanov for several seconds after scoring.
”I was a little fired up after I got hit there,” Thompson said. ”So it was a nice way to pay him back a little bit.”
Olofsson and Skinner set up both Thompson goals. The first was a one-timer from the high slot that gave Buffalo the lead in the opening minutes of the game.
Anderson responded for the Canadiens later in the first after he stripped the puck from Skinner in front of the Buffalo net.
The Canadiens continued their sputtering start after making the Stanley Cup Finals last season. This was their second loss in Buffalo against a team coming off a last-place finish.
”Obviously, it’s tough to stay confident when you lose so many games like we are now,” said forward Jonathan Drouin, who missed the postseason while dealing with anxiety and insomnia. ”Right now, with the tough decisions and mental mistakes, we’ve dug ourselves a hole, and it’s starting to get deep.”
COUNTING THE HOUSE
The Sabres raised their sticks after the victory to acknowledge a standing ovation from the largest crowd this season (9,958 tickets distributed) at KeyBank Center.
Buffalo’s average attendance of 8,206 through 12 home games is the lowest in the NHL. The previous season high was 9,416 in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.
Canadiens: D Joel Edmundson (undisclosed injury) is ”trending in the right direction,” said coach Dominique Ducharme, and ”getting a lot closer,” to making his season debut.
Sabres: Placed F Drake Caggiula (upper body) on injured reserve and called up Brett Murray from the minors. Caggiula’s status is week-to-week.
The Canadiens dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, drawing in D Mattias Norlinder and scratching F Cedric Paquette.
Canadiens: Conclude three-game trip at Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
Sabres: At Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
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