- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

MONTREAL (AP) - Max Pacioretty scored three goals then praised two teammates Tuesday night.

Pacioretty scored once per period, and Montreal beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-2. After his second hat trick of the season, Pacioretty attributed his success to linemates Phillip Danault and Alexander Radulov.

“They made it really easy for me,” said Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 24 goals. “We were dangerous pretty much every shift. I’m just very fortunate to be playing with players like that.”

Radulov and Danault each had two assists.

Pacioretty’s first of the night made it 1-0 at 17:27 of the first period. Pacioretty took a nifty backhand saucer pass from Radulov and roofed the puck on Robin Lehner, who tried a traditional stack-the-pads save but got nowhere near the shot.

“It’s nice to get our line going,” Radulov said. “We got some momentum in the first period.”

Pacioretty added his second at 7:48 of the second period, again cashing in a pass from Radulov from behind Lehner’s net. Danault got the play started by poking the puck away from Marcus Foligno.

“It’s an honor for me to play with Pacioretty and Radulov,” Danault said. “One has a special kind of skill, and the other scores like there’s no tomorrow. I have a lot of respect for them.”

With Montreal already leading 4-0 in the third period, Pacioretty got his stick on a loose puck in a frantic goal-mouth scramble to complete the hat trick.

The Canadiens also benefited from the return of two veteran players, and they both got on the score sheet.

David Desharnais was back in the lineup after missing 24 games with a knee injury. The center made it 3-0 for the home side in the second period after a bad giveaway by Cody Franson deep in his own zone.

Andrei Markov (lower-body injury) also played his first game in six weeks. Markov had the primary assist on Paul Byron’s tic-tac-toe goal that made it 4-0 for Montreal at the end of the second period.

“We were missing core guys who had fought with us in the last couple of years,” Pacioretty said. “To get them back gave us a boost and it was nice to see them contribute and get on the score sheet.”

Defenseman Nikita Nesterov made his Canadiens debut after being traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning last week. Nesterov, who skated with Markov on the third defensive pairing, finished plus-2 in 14:21 of ice time.

Carey Price was perfect through two periods, but Dmitry Kulikov broke his shutout bid with a shot from the point with 3:28 remaining in the game. Brian Gionta added another for Buffalo less than two minutes later.

Price finished with 37 saves for his 23rd win of the season. His counterpart Lehner stopped 30 of 35 shots.

“We gave them opportunities, we mismanaged the puck, turned the puck over,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “They had numerous chances in the first period, and they just took over in the second period. They hemmed us in the offensive zone.

“We handed them the puck and they capitalized on their chances.”

NOTES: Jeff Petry (flu) was not in the lineup for Montreal. Greg Pateryn got the start in his place. … Pacioretty has at least a point in 10 straight games versus the Sabres. … Before puck drop, the Canadiens held a moment of silence for the victims of Sunday’s Quebec City mosque shooting.

UP NEXT

Sabres: Host the New York rangers on Thursday night.

Canadiens: Travel to Philadelphia for a game Thursday night.

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