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Kovalev scores twice as Canadiens edge Sabres

MONTREAL (AP) -- Jose Theodore managed to hold off Daniel Briere
and the Buffalo Sabres, Northeast Division rivals who kept pressing
in vain for a tying goal right to the end.

Alex Kovalev scored twice and Richard Zednik had a goal and an
assist, leading the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens
to a 3-2 victory over Buffalo on Saturday night.

Theodore, who got a rare night off Friday, made 29 saves,
including one with 14.8 seconds remaining that led to a pileup of
players from both teams as the Canadiens' goalie kept the puck from
crossing the line.

"I didn't see much," Theodore said. "I know I stopped it but
I didn't know where it was, and then all of a sudden I saw two guys
coming at me hard but a good thing it was Danny -- he weighs, what
150? 160? -- so it wasn't that bad."

Buffalo has lost three straight, and five of six, including a
10-4 drubbing at home against Ottawa on Wednesday night.

"It's just frustration," Briere said. "We don't know where to
go anymore. We don't know what is a penalty, and what's not. We're
trying to bang some rebounds in, just going to the net. I paid the
price for trying to score a little too hard."

Saku Koivu and Andrei Markov each had two assists for Eastern
Conference-leading Montreal, which beat Buffalo for the second
night in a row.

Montreal improved to 5-3-0 at the Bell Centre, and 11-3-1
overall. The Canadiens' 6-0-1 road mark following Friday's 3-2 win
in Buffalo is the franchise's best road start since it began play
in 1909, eight years prior to the NHL's formation.

"These points are huge," Koivu said. "We were fortunate
enough to get the win even though we didn't play well last night in
Buffalo, but I think it's a very positive thing that we can still
get some points even though we were not playing our best hockey
tonight."

J.P. Dumont and Paul Gaustaud scored for the Sabres. Maxim
Afinogenov assisted on both goals.

"We didn't play the game we wanted to play tonight, and that
cost us another two points," Dumont said. "We have to make sure
that we come back even harder on Wednesday at home against
Carolina. That's going to be another big two points, but it's
really disappointing to lose four points like that in games that we
should have won."

Canadiens forward Jan Bulis left the game with a shoulder injury
in the first. He did not return.

Kovalev scored his fifth of the season 5:03 in to put Montreal
up 1-0. After Dumont scored on a power-play late in the first,
Kovalev restored the Canadiens' lead 7:22 into the second on a
power play, beating Martin Biron stick side with a wrist shot for
his second of the game.

Zednik made it 3-1 with another power-play effort early in the
third, his third goal in five games since returning from a groin
injury.

Sabres center Adam Mair and Montreal defenseman Craig Rivet were
given fighting majors 5:20 into the third for a short tussle after
they dropped their gloves and circled each other near center ice.

Afinogenov got his second assist and helped draw the Sabres
within one when Gaustad redirected a shot past Theodore at 11:21.

Koivu was called for roughing as the Canadiens drew an extra
penalty on the late pileup.

Game notes
Sabres RW Mike Grier returned to the lineup after missing
Friday's game with a hip injury. ... D Jeff Jillson dressed for
Buffalo after being recalled from Rochester of the AHL earlier in
the day. RW Jason Pominville, who made his NHL debut Friday, was
assigned to Rochester. ... The Canadiens have sold out each of
their eight home games. ... Montreal C Radek Bonk missed his fourth
straight game because of a groin injury. ... Koivu has a goal and
six assists in his last four games.