MONTREAL (AP) — Jeff Skinner scored four goals in a game for the first time in his career, and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 on Saturday to snap a three-game winless streak.
“It’s nice, any time you can contribute to the team’s success it’s a good feeling. That’s why you play the game,” said Skinner, who had seven goals all of last season. “To be able to contribute, to play, to win, it’s a good feeling and we’ll take it into the next game to try to be good again.”
Tage Thompson also scored for Buffalo, his fourth goal of the season against the Habs. Skinner also notched an assist and now has 29 points in 24 games against Montreal since 2013.
“He’s relentless,” Thompson said of his linemate. “Our line did a great job of pounding their defense and forcing turnovers. When Skinner gets the puck in the slot, he’s pretty dangerous so it was one of those nights where everything was going in.”
Mike Hoffman, Jeff Petry and Joel Armia scored for NHL-worst Montreal, which lost its third straight since firing coach Dominique Ducharme. The Canadiens’ overall winless streak extended to 10 games, their worst skid since 1926.
“First, I need to be honest with my players, it’s been really intense with the coaching change (and) the new philosophy,” interim coach Martin St. Louis said. “So for me personally, I know we didn’t win the last three games but when I look at the game afterwards we do so many good things that I brought and they’re able to execute them quickly.
“I’m proud of their work. I’m proud that they buy in and work with the plan I ask of them and we’ll keep progressing.”
Skinner’s third goal put the Sabres ahead for good, 4-3, with 11:44 remaining, and his fourth with 1:46 left ended the Canadiens’ chances.
Buffalo coach Don Granato believes his top line of Skinner, Thompson and Alex Tuch, who had three assists, could grow into one of the best in the NHL.
“I thought that line was starting to develop a little bit more chemistry each time we see them, it seems at this point,” Granato said. “They’re dangerous and they’re doing a lot to be dangerous.”
Craig Anderson made 28 saves to collect his 297th NHL win, passing Ron Hextall for 40th on the league’s all-time list.
Montreal’s Samuel Montembeault stopped 26 of 31 shots in his second start in two days.
Skinner got the Sabres on the board early, redirecting a shot by Casey Fitzgerald for his first goal 3:41 into the game.
Montreal tied it early in the second period when Corey Schueneman sent the puck to Hoffman for a one-timer from the right faceoff circle.
Skinner got his second midway through the period when his shot from the top of the the faceoff circle beat Montembeault just under the crossbar.
The Canadiens tied it 2-2 58 seconds later on Petry’s shot from the point, which deflected off John Hayden.
Montreal took the lead 16:09 into the second when Armia, well-positioned in front of the goal, received Ryan Poehling’s pass and beat Anderson with a short-side shot.
The Sabres tied it again on a power play late in the second. Peyton Krebs sent a cross-ice pass to Thompson, whose shot was too much for Montembeault.
Skinner completed the hat trick after he was tripped by Petry on a breakaway. The puck ended up in the back of the net after deflecting off his skate.
Skinner’s fourth goal came when Tuch found him in the slot.
“He could’ve had multiple-goal games many nights or three-goal games many nights already so it’s great to see that come through tonight,” Granato said of Skinner.
NOTES: Montreal placed Ben Chiarot on injured reserve before the game and recalled Schueneman from the AHL’s Laval Rocket. Sunday marked the 26-year-old defenseman’s third game in three days, following back-to-back outings in the AHL.
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