Series (Game 3 of 5)

Boston leads 3-2

Game 1: Tuesday, November 12th
Game 2: Saturday, November 23rd
Game 3: Wednesday, December 18th
Game 4: Friday, January 10th
Game 5: Saturday, April 5th

Bruins 2

(19-8-1, 42 pts)

Sabres 4

(8-16-1, 22 pts)

7:00 PM ET, December 18, 2002

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

1 2 3 T
BOS 0 1 12
BUF 2 1 14

C. Gratton (Sabres - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 3

J. Dumont (Sabres - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

M. Biron (Sabres - G): Saves: 27, Save Pct.: .931

Gratton leads Sabres with goal, three assists

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The Boston Bruins have stopped doing what gave them the NHL's best record for the first two months of the season.

Chris Gratton

Having dropped four straight, now the Bruins can't beat one of the league's worst teams.

Chris Gratton scored his first goal in nearly a month and added three assists as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Bruins 4-2 Wednesday night.

"We're not playing our game right now,'' Bruins forward Brian Rolston said. "It's very simple, we're giving up 2-on-1, 2-on-0s, things we don't do normally. You just try to work as hard as you can to get out of it, that's the bottom line.''

While Rolston said any team can lose on any given night, he acknowledged that the Bruins, who began the night with a league-leading 19 wins, are not supposed to lose to Buffalo, a team that managed only its eighth victory of the season.

"Absolutely,'' Rolston said.

Mike Knuble and Sergei Samsonov, back after missing four games with a groin injury, scored for Boston. The Bruins have been outscored 17-6 during their longest losing streak since a four-game skid from Feb. 28 to March 6 last season.

J.P. Dumont, Taylor Pyatt and Stu Barnes also scored for Buffalo, which snapped a three-game winless skid (0-2-1). Gratton matched his career high for points in a game, set in 1995 when he was with Tampa Bay.

"They've had our number the last couple games,'' Gratton said. "We jumped out real quick and played strong for a whole 60 minutes.''

Buffalo's Martin Biron, making his 11th straight start, had 27 saves. Steve Shields made 31 saves for the Bruins.

Dumont's power-play goal at 9:01 of the second period proved to be the winner, giving the Sabres a 3-1 lead. Gratton set up the goal when he shoveled a pass to Dumont, who one-timed the puck into the open right side of the net.

"It was nice,'' Gratton said. "Everyone's been struggling of late. It's nice to chip in offensively. When the puck goes in it allows you to gain confidence.''

Defensive breakdowns cost the Bruins. Gratton's goal, which opened the scoring came on a 2-0 break. Boston also allowed two power-play goals for only the fourth time this season.

"There's no question you have to play with a passion and desperation,'' Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney said. "We're getting away from out game. It calls for patience and positioning and aggressiveness.''

Game notes

Dumont returned to the lineup after missing Friday's and Saturday's games with the flu. ... Sabres D Alexei Zhitnik returned to the lineup after missing 10 straight games with a broken bone in his right foot. ... Boston scratched forwards Michal Grosek (strained oblique muscle) and P.J. Axelsson (strained back).

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press