MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens extended their first winning streak of the season to four games with a 4-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres at Bell Centre on Wednesday.
Sam Montembeault made 32 saves for his first NHL shutout, and Nick Suzuki had two goals and an assist for Montreal (12-33-7), which is 4-3-0 in seven games since Martin St. Louis replaced Dominique Ducharme as coach Feb. 9. Cole Caufield had a goal and an assist.
“There’s a lot of buy-in by the players,” St. Louis said. “When you watch on TV you don’t know their personalities, you’re not around them every day. There are a lot of winners on this team. Guys who take the team’s success to heart. You win a lot of games with guys like that. It’s 4-0 and we’re blocking shots with a minute to go. It’s fun to see how much the culture has progressed.”
Montembeault’s shutout came in his 37th NHL start and his 18th with the Canadiens, who claimed the 25-year-old off waivers from the Florida Panthers on Oct. 2.
“It’s so much fun to get my first shutout at Bell Centre,” Montembeault said. “I think I’m going to have to speak to the timekeeper. I was watching the clock in the third period and I felt time was not going down as fast as it did in the other periods. I’m really happy. The guys did extraordinary work.”
Craig Anderson made 25 saves for Buffalo (16-28-8), which lost its fourth straight.
“We helped [Montreal] tonight,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “We were sloppy early, our forwards did not support our [defensemen]. We gave them four chances early before we got our first chance and they had a goal. And it was all our forwards not supporting our [defensemen] quick enough or giving them outlet support, and it allowed them in the game. And we could not get a break to get a goal.”
Suzuki gave Montreal a 1-0 lead at 6:52 of the first period on a shot to Anderson’s glove side from the slot.
Suzuki made it 2-0 at 5:57 of the second period when he scored on a penalty shot after he was hooked from behind by Dylan Cozens on a breakaway during 4-on-4 play.
Caufield extended the lead to 3-0 at 1:18 of the third period. Suzuki won a face-off to the right of Anderson, and Caufield scored on a rising wrist shot from the right face-off circle.
“It’s definitely a treat to watch,” Suzuki said. “He’s such an electric player and gets the crowd going. All the guys love seeing his success and he’s just having a ton of fun right now. His smile is back and he’s been playing great hockey lately.”
Caufield has scored 10 points (six goals, four assists) in seven games under St. Louis after scoring one goal in his first 30 games this season. Suzuki has scored five points (two goals, three assists) during a three-game point streak.
“I think both of us are just playing with a lot of confidence, having fun out there,” Suzuki said. “All these small plays that we’re making, getting each other open and using our linemates well, it’s been a ton of fun over the last seven games and we want to keep it going.”
Jake Evans scored into an empty net with 1:33 remaining for the 4-0 final.
“We’ve got to start better than that,” Cozens said. “We knew they were going to come out with that push. They’ve got fans in the building, they’re on a winning streak, so we’ve got to be ready for that. We just weren’t, and that’s on us.”
Montreal finished the game with 10 forwards. Paul Byron left at 3:22 of the first with an upper-body injury after he was checked into the boards by Mattias Samuelsson, and Josh Anderson left at 16:18 of the second after he was struck in the face when he went down to block a shot by Casey Mittelstadt.
Byron and Anderson returned to the Canadiens after each was sent to hospital for precautionary reasons, but there was no update on either player.
“I think [Anderson’s] going to be just fine there,” Suzuki said. “I saw him after the game.”
NOTES: Sabres forward Brandon Biro played 13:30 in his NHL debut. … Buffalo defenseman Henri Jokiharju left the game at 9:22 of the second period with a lower-body injury. Granato did not have an update. … Suzuki’s penalty-shot goal was the second by a Canadiens player this season. Laurent Dauphin scored on a penalty shot against Anthony Stolarz of the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 27. … It is the third time Montreal has scored two penalty-shot goals in the same season. Tomas Plekanec and Guillaume Latendresse did it in 2006-07, and Alex Tanguay and Latendresse did it in 2008-09.