Series (Game 1 of 1)

Dallas leads 1-0

Game 1: Wednesday, December 12th

Sabres 3

(13-16-1, 29 pts)

Stars 4

(13-8-3, 35 pts)

7:30 PM ET, December 12, 2001

American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas

1 2 3 T
BUF 2 1 03
DAL 1 2 14

Top Skaters

Buffalo: S. Kozlov - 2 A, 2 SOG, +2

Dallas: M. Modano - 1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, +2

Stars are 8-2-2 in last 12 games

DALLAS (AP) -- Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen are carrying the Dallas Stars through their best stretch of the season.

Lehtinen scored two goals, including the game-winner with 2:18 remaining, and Modano had a goal and two assists in the Stars' 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.

The Stars are 8-2-2 in their last 12 games. During that span, Modano, Dallas' first-line center, has nine goals and 11 assists. Lehtinen, the right wing on the line, has five goals and eight assists.

"We're hunting down pucks right now," Modano said. "We have a jump to our game. It's been a fun 2{ weeks. When you're on a streak like that, you can't wait for the next game."

Lehtinen held his position in front of the net to score his 12th goal of the season and 100th of his career with a Sabres defender hanging on his back. Lehtinen knocked the rebound of Martin Rucinsky's shot past goalie Martin Biron to snap a 3-3 tie.

Modano was credited with the second assist on the goal after he set up Rucinsky for the original shot.

"I don't know who was on my back," Lehtinen said. "I just tried to shoot it and I got a good shot on net."

Stars coach Ken Hitchcock requires that the players on his top line also handle checking duties, and Modano and Lehtinen are responding to all challenges.

"When they work as hard as they are, they get rewarded," Hitchcock said. "Some people might call (Lehtinen's game-winner) a lucky goal, but it isn't luck when you work like that."

Jamie Langenbrunner scored the tying goal late in the second period for the Stars.

Tim Connelly, Stu Barnes and Dmitri Kalinin scored for the Sabres, 5-8-1 in their last 14.

Buffalo scored on two of its first three shots, and Dallas starting goalie Marty Turco was replaced at 7:52 of the first period by Ed Belfour, who had been bothered by the flu over the past week.

Modano opened the scoring at 3:15 when he banked a sharp-angle shot into the net off the skate of Biron for Modano's 14th of the season.

Barnes answered with his 10th goal 47 seconds later, firing through Turco's pads from low in the right circle. Kalinin notched his first goal of the season at 7:33, beating Turco from the left circle for a 2-1 lead.

But the Sabres were unable to maintain their momentum and the Stars built a 13-3 shots advantage in the final period.

"We weren't aggressive enough in the third period," Connelly said. "We sat back and tried not to lose the game. When you do that, the other team is going to come after you."

Turco was coming off consecutive shutouts. Barnes' goal ended Turco's scoreless streak at 132 minutes and 16 seconds.

Hitchcock said he wasn't worried about Turco's feelings when he made the change.

"Those goals can't go in," Hitchcock said. "I don't worry about it. We needed a win. I didn't like the way things were going so we made the change."

Lehtinen's power-play deflection 44 seconds into the second period tied it at 2.

Connelly's fifth goal off a 2-on-1 break at 6:38 of the second period had given Buffalo a 3-2 lead.

But Langenbrunner knocked a loose puck past Biron from in front of the net for Langenbrunner's fifth goal at 14:09 of the second.

Game notes
Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a shoulder injury. ... Biron made his 11th straight start. ... Modano had his fourth straight multipoint game, matching his career high. He has at least one point in seven consecutive games. ... Buffalo center Erik Rasmussen missed the final period after reaggravating a knee injury in the second.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press