Sabres 4, Canadiens 2

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MONTREAL – Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont scored early in the third period and Teppo Numminen added an empty-net goal to lift the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-2 win over Montreal on Saturday night, leaving the Canadiens still short of a playoff spot.

Montreal, which hasn’t been to the postseason in consecutive seasons since 1996-98, needs one point in its season finale Tuesday against New Jersey to clinch its second straight trip to the playoffs.

The Canadiens also will qualify if Atlanta fails to win both of its two remaining games, or if Tampa Bay doesn’t record a standings point in its final two games.

Silenced after Buffalo leading scorer Maxim Afinogenov got his 22nd goal midway through the first, the Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 came to life late in the second when Michael Ryder and Mike Komisarek scored goals 45 seconds apart to put Montreal ahead 2-1.

Drury tied it at 2 with a short-handed effort 4:37 into the third, putting Mike Grier’s 2-on-1 pass into a wide open net. Dumont restored the Sabres’ lead at 6:48 as he slipped into the slot among three Canadiens to take Daniel Briere’s pass and beat David Aebischer for his 18th goal.

Buffalo is locked into fourth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres will host either Philadelphia or New Jersey in the opening round of the playoffs.

Aebischer, who stopped a penalty shot by Dumont with 1:32 remaining, made his second start in a row and stopped 26 shots, ending a personal four-game winning streak.

Afinogenov got his own rebound to open the scoring 10:20 in. He cut in front of the net, moving past Komisarek to fire a low shot on net. Aebischer kicked out his right leg to make a pad save but the rebound went right to Afinogenov, who put the puck into a gaping net.

Ryder scored his 30th goal on a power play 17:52 into the second to tie it, triggering a thundering cheer from the sellout crowd of 21,273.

Moments later Tomas Plekanec stripped the puck off goalie Ryan Miller behind the Sabres’ net and fed a pass into the slot to Komisarek, who drove the net and fired a quick shot past Miller to give Montreal the lead.

Aebischer made a pad save on Briere during a 1:10 two-man advantage for Buffalo early in the third. Canadiens forward Garth Murray sprawled to block Drury’s slap shot from the slot later in the same 5-on-3.

Notes: Afinogenov extended his points streak to six games. He has three goals and nine assists during that stretch. … Ryder is the first Canadiens player to reach 30 goals since Richard Zednik scored a career-high 31 in 2002-03. … Montreal has sold out each of its 40 home games.

AP-ES-04-15-06 2150EDT

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