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Sabres beat Jackets for first win in month

11/23/2002

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- After going a month without a victory,
James Patrick and the Buffalo Sabres will take one any way they
can.

Even if it means almost squandering a two-goal lead in the final
six minutes.

Patrick's first goal in 29 games was the eventual game-winner as
the Sabres snapped a 12-game winless streak, hanging on for a 5-4
victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.

"A win is huge, no matter what it looks like at the end of the
night, and we want to build on it,'' Patrick said. "I'm extremely
happy, yes.''

That his goal proved to be the most important one, scoring on a
20-foot backhander to put the Sabres up 5-2 with 7:40 left, is a
bonus.

"I'll take any goal,'' Patrick said. "But with six minutes
left, I didn't think it was going to be the game-winner.''

Taylor Pyatt, with two goals, Miroslav Satan and Vaclav Varada
also scored for the Sabres. Goaltender Ryan Miller was shaky,
stopping 17 shots to earn his first NHL victory.

The win came a month to the day since Buffalo's last victory,
ending an 0-9-2-1 streak, which matched a franchise record.

The Blue Jackets made it close as David Vyborny and Lasse
Pirjeta scored 2:39 apart to make it 5-4 with 3:22 remaining.
Columbus, however, failed to manage a shot the rest of the way
despite pulling its goalie in the final minute.

Ray Whitney scored a short-handed goal and Derrick Walser also
scored for the Blue Jackets, who have managed just one win in eight
road games. The loss was also Columbus' first against Buffalo in
its three-year history, ending a 3-0-1 string.

The Blue Jackets' strong finish couldn't make up for their poor
start.

"We came out flat,'' Columbus forward Geoff Sanderson said.
"You come into a rink like this when a team hasn't won, you know
they're going to come out hard in the first 10 minutes. But if you
can counter that, get on top of that early and get them thinking,
'Here we go again.' Then you've got a huge advantage.

"And we didn't put that in their head until late in the game.''

The Blue Jackets turnaround came as the lights inexplicably
flickered at HSBC Arena, delaying the game only briefly.

"Gee, they don't even want us to win a game, the power's going
out,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, recalling his thoughts at the
time. "But it was a huge load off us. We made a few mistakes down
the stretch, but overall it was sound game.''

The Sabres never trailed after Pyatt staked them to a 2-0 lead
by the 2:35 mark of the second period, wrapping in a rebound behind
Columbus' Marc Denis during a delayed penalty.

Buffalo appeared in full control when Varada and Patrick scored
goals 1:51 apart, putting Buffalo ahead 5-2 lead with 7:40
remaining.

The game was Buffalo's first since the NHL gave conditional
approval Wednesday to Buffalo businessman Mark Hamister and Todd
Berman's joint bid to purchase the financially troubled Sabres.

The two must now await NHL board of governor approval which, if
all goes well, is expected to come early next year.

Hamister received a standing ovation when he was introduced and
pictured on the center-ice video scoreboard, shaking hands with
fans in the stands during a first-period break.

Game notes
Miller, who made his NHL debut in Tuesday's 4-3 overtime
loss at New Jersey, made his second consecutive start after Buffalo
demoted backup Mika Noronen to Rochester, the team's minor league
affiliate. ... In preparing plans to market the Sabres, Hamister
hasn't ruled out bringing back Buffalo's old blue and gold
uniforms, which remain popular among the team's fans. The Sabres
switched to their current black, white and red colors in 1996. Any
change would require league approval. ... Whitney's goal was
Columbus' fifth short-handed of the season, one short of the Blue
Jackets' total in their first two seasons of existence.