Arnott nets first hat trick with Devils


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- If Jason Arnott can find the net
like he did Sunday night, the New Jersey Devils' chances of making
the playoffs are going to improve significantly.

The slump-ridden Arnott had his first three-goal game since 1996
to lead the Devils to a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

"Wow, it's been a long time, too long," Arnott said after
putting the finishing touches on his fourth straight 20-goal
season. "I've had a lot of two-goal games. I never thought it
would happen. The puck had eyes tonight. It went in for me."

Arnott, who had only three goals in his last 14 games, had his
first hat trick with the Devils despite playing without regular
right wing Petr Sykora (bruised ribs) and going against one of the
NHL's hottest goaltenders, Martin Biron.

Rookie Brian Gionta joined Arnott and Elias on the Devils' top
line, and they all contributed as the Devils won their second game
in as many days and snapped the Sabres' season-high, five-game
(3-0-2) unbeaten streak.

"Losing Petr, Patty and I had to go out and work harder,
knowing he wasn't there," Arnott said.

The Devils are 4-1-1 since Kevin Constantine replaced Larry
Robinson as coach. They are tied with the New York Rangers for
seventh place in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of
Montreal for the last two playoff berths.

Bobby Holik had a goal, and Martin Brodeur made 21 saves for the
Devils, who will play Buffalo again Tuesday night before the
Olympic break.

"It's too early to tell, but Tuesday's game will show if we're
developing a pattern under Kevin," Holik said. "We need to be on
a steady climb, not up and down like we've been."

Taylor Pyatt scored in the third period for Buffalo, which also
had a run of four consecutive overtime games ended.

"In the first two periods they had six good shots and scored
four times," Sabres defenseman Alexei Zhitnik said. "They were
great shots. Arnott was in the right place. It was hard to stop."

The Devils needed that against Biron. He had given up more than
two goals only twice in his previous 13 games.

"It was just one of those games where they came out with a
little more everything than we did," Biron said.

Arnott scored the game's first goal at 11:12 of the first period
with the Devils' second shot. Elias set up the big center's slam
dunk in front with a great move behind the net and a pass out in

Holik ignited a three-goal second period with his second goal in
as many days. Seconds after Brodeur made a good save on Richard
Smehlik, Holik played give-and-go with Valeri Kamensky on an
odd-man rush and beat Biron with a shot from between the circles at

Arnott stretched the lead to 3-0 less than a minute later,
combining with Elias and Gionta. The goal was a little lucky as
Arnott's pass to Elias came back to him off a skate, and he beat
Biron from the right circle.

Arnott capped his third career hat trick on a power play with
the Sabres' Denis Hamel serving four minutes for high-sticking.

Pyatt got his fourth goal of the season 20 seconds after Arnott
finished serving a roughing penalty.

Miroslav Satan, the Sabres' leading scorer, played his third
game in as many nights. He played in Buffalo on Friday against
Ottawa, flew to Utah to play for Slovakia in the Olympics on
Saturday and returned to New Jersey around 12:30 p.m. for Sunday
night's game.

"I'm exhausted, I'd be lying if I said I'm not," said Satan,
who played 13:25. "I feel like I'll sleep for a couple of days,
but during the game I felt good."

Satan had two very good chances in close on a three-minute,
first-period power play. He finished with a team-high five shots.

Game notes
Devils forward Sergei Nemchinov was sidelined with a sore
back. ... The Devils were lucky they dressed seven defenseman.
Colin White got a game misconduct at 3:48 for checking Vaclav
Varada from behind into the boards. ... Varada got payback early in
the third period with a check that knocked Arnott to the ice. ...
Arnott's two other hat tricks were with Edmonton, the last on March
23, 1996, at Montreal. ... Biron was 8-3-2 in his last 13.