The Montreal Canadiens have officially become the second team to clinch a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference after beating the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 Thursday night. The Canadiens were led by defenseman P.K. Subban and goaltender Peter Budaj on the way to their fourth win in the past six games.
Subban led the way with a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, while Budaj stopped 14-of-15 shots for his seventh win of the season. Budaj is now 7-1-1 in the NHL this year as Montreal’s backup and was great between the pipes Thursday in the playoff-clinching win.
Andrei Markov also finished with a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who jumped all over the Sabres in the first two periods. Rene Bourque and Alex Galchenyuk scored their six goals of the season respectively in the first before the Canadiens added two more in the second.
Brendan Gallagher beat Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller just over four minutes into the second period before Markov scored on the powerplay to give the Canadiens a 4-0 lead. Miller’s struggles in net led to his early exit after the second period.
Miller was relieved by backup Jhonas Enroth after giving up four goals on 32 shots. Enroth came in and gave up a late goal in the third period while stopping nine of the Canadiens’ final 10 shots.
The Sabers lone tally came early in the third period when Brian Flynn scored a shorthanded goal just over six minutes in. P.K. Subban finished off the Sabres with a one-timer that beat Enroth in the final minutes of the game. Here’s a video of Subban’s one-timer with a taste of French broadcasting:
With the loss, the Sabres have now dropped two straight games and are six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres have made a late rush for the playoffs after firing head coach Lindy Ruff earlier this season but have cooled down a bit and will likely miss the playoffs for the second straight year.
The Canadiens have now secured their spot in the playoffs and have eight games left to prepare for a run at the Stanley Cup. Montreal hasn’t won a Stanley Cup since the 1992-93 season but are on a roll in the final month this year and have high hopes going in.
Can the Montreal Canadiens return to their dominance of the past and win an NHL-record 25th Stanley Cup this year?
[Image via Kristina Servant]