The Montreal Canadiens are steadily erasing a bad start to the season and they don't want to stop.
Max Pacioretty scored 3:08 into overtime and minor league call-up Charlie Lindgren turned in another strong game in goal as the Canadiens downed the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday night.
After going 2-7-1 in the opening 10 games of the campaign, they are on a 6-2-0 run and now sit one game under .500 at 8-9-1.
"We're trending the right way," said Pacioretty, who set a team record with his 10th-career overtime goal. "We don't want to stop this train with a poor performance.
"We felt the first period was very poor. We don't want to lose the momentum we have right now in terms of our confidence. Emotions were high because we felt this was a very important game for our team."
It didn't appear that way as they were outskated and outshot 17-7 in the first period by a Buffalo team playing a second game in as many nights after a 4-1 loss at home to the Florida Panthers.
The Sabres (5-9-3) took the lead on a power play with six seconds left in the first period as Ryan O'Reilly scored into an open side during a scramble in Lindgren's crease.
The second period was only marginally better for Montreal, but the Habs managed to tie the game on their only power play of the game 1:01 into the third when Andrew Shaw deflected Jonathan Drouin's wrist shot from the point past Chad Johnson.
They caught a break in overtime when Sabres defence Nathan Beaulieu broke his stick. That allowed Phillip Danault to feather a pass ahead and send Pacioretty in alone to score on a deke to the backhand at 3:08.
"A power play with fresh ice in the third gave us an opportunity to get back in the game and, from there, we put our foot on the gas," said Pacioretty. "We were skating much better."
They could not have won without Lindgren, who faced 35 shots. The rookie, called up last week from AHL Laval when No. 1 goaltender Carey Price suffered a lower-body injury, has been solid in four consecutive starts, going 3-1 and allowing only five goals for a 1.24 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage.
The 23-year-old is 6-1-0 in seven career NHL games.
This time, the Lakeville, Minn. native did it with his parents watching from the seats.
"Playing at the Bell Centre on a Saturday night — it doesn't get better than that," said Lindgren. "I'm trying to stay in the groove.
"I want to be confident out there. I don't want to be surprised by what I do. It's what I expect. It's a lot of fun."
The Sabres, who outshot Montreal 35-26 in regulation time and 35-29 overall, also had a weak (1-5-2) start to the season but have been only somewhat better since, going 4-5-0.
Lindgren may get an extended stay in Montreal.
Montoya diagnosed with concussion
The Canadiens announced that Price's regular backup, Al Montoya, has a concussion and is out indefinitely. Montoya hasn't played since Nov. 4 in Winnipeg, although he dressed as backup to Lindgren for three games.
Montoya may have been injured by a Dustin Byfuglien shot that rattled off his mask in Winnipeg.
"Unfortunately, we can assume it might be that but we can't be certain," said coach Claude Julien. "After the game and the next day he felt good. He was ready to play."
Zach Fucale, called up Friday from AHL Laval, backed up Lindgren against the Sabres. Price has missed five games with what the team called a "minor" injury.
Josh Gorges returned after missing nine games for Buffalo and got into a first-period fight with Jordie Benn after taking a long run to put a hit on Brendan Gallagher.