BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was afraid that the changes Buffalo made at the NHL trade deadline might be a distraction.
He didn't need to worry, because Patrick Lalime never lost his focus.
Lalime stopped the first 36 shots he faced and finished with 38 saves in Buffalo's 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
Lalime's near-perfect outing - he had his shutout bid foiled with 1:06 left - overshadowed a busy day of transactions.
Intent on getting back into the playoff race, the Sabres tinkered with their lineup by acquiring center Dominic Moore and backup goalie Mikael Tellqvist; trading away Ales Kotalik; re-signing center Tim Connolly to a two-year contract; and welcoming back Thomas Vanek after he missed nine games because of a broken jaw.
"I was very impressed," Ruff said. "It was a little bit of a slow start. But once we got our legs and our heads going, we put together the type of effort that gives you a chance to win every night."
Lalime earned much of the credit. Making his fourth straight start in place of injured Ryan Miller, Lalime was finally rewarded with a win in helping Buffalo snap an 0-2-1 skid and move into a tie with Carolina for ninth place in the tightly contested Eastern Conference standings.
"It's awesome," Ruff said. "We knew we had a good goalie and he's really stepped up for us in Ryan's absence. That's not easy. There's a lot of pressure there."
Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad scored two goals apiece, and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek had a goal and an assist. The Sabres scored only three goals in their last three outings combined before breaking out against the Canadiens.
Thomas Plekanec scored for the Canadiens, who had a four-game winning streak snapped and continued to struggle on the road, falling to 2-10-1 in their past 13 games away from home. Montreal is 14-17-3 on the road after going 25-12-4 last season.
"If we can't adjust to play on the road, then we don't deserve to be in the playoffs," coach Guy Carbonneau said, lamenting how his team couldn't sustain the momentum it generated in the first period. "Either they're tired or not in shape. We'll go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to get better."
Lalime was the difference in a game the Sabres were outshot 18-3 through the first 15 minutes. The best save came when he got his blocker out to stop Alex Kovalev, who got off a hard shot from the right circle following a Sabres turnover.
Roy opened the scoring with 2:07 left in the first by taking advantage of a fortunate bounce. Spacek's shot from the right circle caromed off a defender and bounced in front, where Roy backhanded a shot in the open left side. Roy scored again 3 minutes into the second period, and Spacek made it 3-0 by blasting in a shot from the left circle six minutes later.
Roy expressed relief once the trade deadline passed, allowing the Sabres to focus on their playoff objective.
"The rumors, everything, all the doubts in the players' minds has gone out the door," Roy said. "You have your team in front of you. It's a relaxed environment and everybody was anxious to get out on the ice and work hard for the team."
Canadiens goalie Carey Price made his first start in five games, filling in while Jaroslav Halak recovers from the flu. Price is 0-5-1 in his past six games, allowing 28 goals.
"It's just the way it's going right now," Price said. "I didn't feel that great to be honest. I felt a little rusty. I have to play better."
At Denver, Ty Conklin made 25 saves, and Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen and Kris Draper scored to help Detroit take over the NHL points lead.
The Red Wings played without goal leader Marian Hossa, sidelined by a sore neck and knee. Hossa was injured Wednesday night in St. Louis when he slammed into the end boards and had to be carried off the ice on a gurney.
The Stanley Cup champions won for the fourth time in five games to reach 94 points, one more than San Jose and Eastern Conference-leading Boston.
John-Michael Liles and Milan Hejduk scored for Colorado. The Avalanche have lost six straight, matching the longest skid since the team moved to Denver in 1995-96.