MONTREAL (AP) - The Buffalo Sabres believe they can compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The trick now is to make sure they reach them.
Ryan Miller made 31 saves for his fourth shutout and Nathan Gerbe scored twice to lead Buffalo to a 2-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.
Miller recorded his 21st career shutout, his first since a 36-save effort in a 3-0 win over San Jose on Jan. 6.
``He's a world-class goaltender and if you're going to score goals on him, you've got to get guys in front of him and get him moving and we just didn't do that tonight,' Montreal captain Brian Gionta said.
Gerbe scored for the third game in a row in the second period before adding an empty-net goal for the Sabres, who are currently in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 81 points.
``We wanted to prove that we could play well with a one-goal lead, and I think we did,' coach Lindy Ruff said. ``That game felt like a playoff game.'
Buffalo, which has missed the playoffs twice in the last three years, yielded a crucial point in Sunday's overtime loss in Nashville, giving up a pair of goals late in regulation to blow a 3-1 lead.
``We've got to get the points at all times,' Miller said. ``Just watching what other teams do, they're scraping by, they're getting to overtime. There are a lot of three-point games out there so you just have to scrape and battle, and tonight was one of those games and we're happy to get out of here.'
The Sabres remained three points ahead of ninth-place Carolina, which beat Ottawa. Buffalo was unable to gain ground on seventh-place New York as the Rangers shut out Florida 1-0 to retain their three-point lead over the Sabres.
``We did what we have to do and we can't really worry about the other teams,' Buffalo forward Jason Pominville said.
Carey Price stopped 22 shots for Montreal, which had won eight of 11, including an 8-1 victory at Minnesota on Sunday.
The Canadiens, who remain sixth in the East with 87 points, have alternated wins and losses in six games since winning a season-high five in a row from Feb. 26-March 8.
Montreal plays in Boston on Thursday night in the first game between the two Northeast Division rivals since Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a broken vertebra in his neck on a scary hit by Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Boston moved three points clear of Montreal for the division lead - and third seed overall in the East - with a win over New Jersey.
``We'll digest this one and think about that tomorrow,' Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said. ``We know we've got a big job to do in Boston.'
Miller stuck out his glove to snare Michael Cammalleri's drive 14:31 in as the Canadiens held a 12-8 advantage in shots in the first period.
Montreal had another good scoring chance moments later, but Gionta redirected the puck over the net on Scott Gomez's centering pass from the left side.
Gerbe scored his 12th goal 8:56 into the second to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers kept the puck in the Canadiens' zone at the right point and slapped a pass into the slot, where Gerbe redirected it past Price.
``It's tough. They get one there and you're playing behind the whole game,' Gionta said.
He added his second of the game - his 13th - into an empty net 19:38 into the third.
Notes: The Sabres won their third in a row against Montreal to split the season series. ... Canadiens Cs Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern have both missed four games in a row because of lower-body injuries.
The Associated Press News Service
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