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Briere dazzles as Sabres rush past Canadiens

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Crossing the Montreal blue line with a full
head of steam, Buffalo's Daniel Briere looked up and knew exactly
what he was going to do.

Turning flatfooted defender Sheldon Souray inside out, Briere
then fooled goaltender Cristobal Huet to seal the Sabres' 3-1 win
over the Canadiens on Wednesday night.

"I saw him standing still and saw his face go 'Oh shoot,"
Briere said, referring to Souray. "It was a tough play for him.
And in his defense, there's not much he could've done. ... There's
nothing better than winning games and scoring goals."

Briere's goal capped a big night for Buffalo (49-24-6), which
tied a franchise record for victories set in 1974-75. Tim Connolly
had a goal and assist, Maxim Afinogenov set up two goals and Taylor
Pyatt also scored in helping the playoff-bound Sabres inch closer
to securing fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

With three games left, Buffalo moved seven points ahead of idle
Philadelphia in fifth.

Souray scored for Montreal, which remains three points from
clinching back-to-back postseason berths for the first time since
1997 and 1998. The Canadiens, coming off a 3-2 win over Ottawa on
Monday, are now 1-2 in their last three games since winning eight
straight.

Blame Briere, who had fresh legs, the result of the Sabres'
three-day break between games -- their longest since the Olympic
break in February.

"We could've scored a couple more," Briere said, smiling.

The play began when Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller cleared the puck
to Connolly, who quickly hit Briere in full stride up the right
wing.

Faking right, Briere cut into the middle catching Souray
flatfooted. Driving in alone, Briere faked left and went right,
jamming the puck in between the post and Huet's outstretched pad.

"It was certainly a treat to watch," Sabres defenseman Jay
McKee said. "I'm glad I wasn't on the other end of that move."

Huet, understandably, had a different opinion.

"That's sad because I'm going to be on the highlights," Huet
said. "But that was a great move and definitely a killer for us."

The Sabres took control in the first period, scoring twice and
outshooting the Canadiens 16-4.

Souray's goal 5 minutes into second gave the Canadiens some
hope. Montreal outshot Buffalo 15-10 in the third period but failed
to take advantage of six power-play opportunities, all coming in
the final 31 minutes of play.

"I thought the first 20 minutes we played bad, but after that
we evened it up," Montreal captain Saku Koivu said. "They're all
really important games right now. We need points to secure a
playoff spot."

The Canadiens, who have three games left, play at Boston on
Thursday.

The Sabres have suddenly regained their stride, going 4-1 in
their last five since ending a 1-7-1 slump.

Tying a franchise record for victories was special, particularly
for a team with a relative no-name roster that wasn't expected to
do much when the season began.

"For a team that a lot of the so-called hockey experts had
pegged to be among the two- or three-worst, the guys have a lot to
be proud of," McKee said. "But we're not looking at records or
stuff like that. We're focused right now on continuing this kind of
play to carry over into the playoffs."

Miller stopped 27 shots to win consecutive starts for the first
time since March 14-16.

Afinogenov was the best player in the first period, setting up
both goals.

The prettiest play came when, from the right point, he slid a
perfect pass to Toni Lydman in the far circle, creating a 2-on-1
down low. Lydman then flipped a pass into the slot where Connolly
snapped it into the open side to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead late in
the period.

Game notes
Sabres C Adam Mair missed his second straight game because
of suspected concussion-related problems. Mair is scheduled to be
evaluated by a specialist in Pittsburgh on Thursday. ... Canadiens'
C Radek Bonk returned after missing one game with a leg injury. ...
Sabres D Teppo Numminen returned for Buffalo after missing six
games with a sprained knee.