When things weren’t going well for the Canadiens Saturday night, coach Michel Therrien unleashed his secret weapon.

Therrien put his fourth line on the ice to start the second period of the game against the Buffalo Sabres and it took only 19 seconds for Brandon Prust to score the game’s first goal.

“Of course, there was a message,” Therrien said when asked about his decision. “I didn’t like our intensity in the first period. I don’t think we had the right attitude to start the game.We discussed it after the first period and those guys (on the fourth line) were intense. We decided to start them and they give us a big goal.”

The fourth line of Prust, Ryan White and Travis Moen also had a hand in the team’s second goal as the Canadiens escaped with a 3-2 victory for their fifth consecutive win.

White started the play by chipping the puck out of the Canadiens’ zone and went to the bench. Tomas Plekanec took his spot and received a pass from Prust to snap a 1-1 tie at 17:44 of the third period.

“It was an ugly win for us but the fourth line played a hell of a game and they gave us a chance to win,” said Plekanec. “Buffalo had five guys in the neutral zone and they played tough defensively. It was a great play from Prust to find me.

“They were a big reason we won the game,” Therrien said of the fourth line. “They created scoring chances with their intensity. They spent a lot of time in the offensive zone. This is leadership for me. And they certainly were true leaders tonight, those three guys.”

White returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for three of the past four games. Therrien waited to see Ted Nolan’s lineup and, when the Buffalo coach elected not to dress John Scott, he replaced George Parros with White.

“Whitey probably played his best game of the year,” said Therrien. “This is a kid that, when he’s not dressed it’s not because of a lack of effort or a lack of intensity. He’s a heart-and-soul guy. We talk to him and he understands why we go with different lineups. He has a good attitude.”

“Coming back into the lineup, I wanted to bring some fresh legs and some energy,” said White. “This is where it’s good to have some extra guys.”

Prust and Plekanec each had a goal and an assist while Moen had a pair of assists.

“It’s good for us to chip in,” said Prust. “The big guys have been carrying the load lately. We were skating well and getting pucks in deep. The energy was there in the first period. .They play a trap game and we just concentrated on getting pucks behind them and avoiding mistakes.”

Prust was a fighting major away from getting a Gordie Howe hat trick — a goal, an assist and fight.