Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series tied 1-1

Game 1: Saturday, December 28th
Game 2: Tuesday, January 14th

Wild 4

(19-11-1, 46 pts)

Sabres 3

(8-21-1, 22 pts)

7:00 PM ET, December 28, 2002

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

1 2 3 T
MIN 1 1 24
BUF 1 0 23

M. Gaborik (Wild - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

M. Fernandez (Wild - G): Saves: 37, Save Pct.: .925

A. Mair (Sabres - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

Minnesota snaps four-game winless streak

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Lindy Ruff had warned the Buffalo Sabres about Marian Gaborik. It did not help.

Gaborik had a goal that tied him for the NHL lead, and added two assists as the Minnesota Wild snapped a four-game winless streak with a 4-3 victory Saturday night over the Buffalo Sabres.

"Gaborik is the one guy we talked about," said Ruff, whose Sabres have lost five straight. "He's a hell of a hockey player."

Gaborik tied Vancouver's Markus Naslund with 23 goals when he beat Martin Biron just 27 seconds after Miroslav Satan had given the Sabres a 1-0 lead 2:57 into the game. He took a pass from Jeremy Stevenson and fired his own rebound in on a breakaway. Gaborik also assisted on goals by Filip Kuba and Jim Dowd.

"It was a really good pass and I was just waiting for him to pass the blue line and I just tried to go fast and it came back to my stick," Gaborik said.

That worried Ruff.

"He's a guy you can't let get a step on you," Ruff said. "We gave him a dandy (opportunity). He doesn't miss many of those -- just check his stats."

Antti Laaksonen added empty-net goal after Ales Kotalik pulled the Sabres to 3-2 by beating Manny Fernandez with 1:31 left.

Buffalo's Stu Barnes accounted for the final goal with 56 seconds left in the game.

Minnesota is 8-1-1 when Gaborik, who finished with three points for the fourth time, has more than one point.

"(This year) we have more confidence with him," Kuba said. "With his speed he can do a lot of things on the ice."

Fernandez, appearing in his 19th game of the season, stopped 37 shots.

"Our goaltending has been there all year," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "It's a big reason why we're at the stage we are right now. It makes the players play with more pride, more confidence."

Biron, who has started 15 of the last 16 games, stopped 25 shots. Satan, with seven goals and 14 points in his last 14 games, scored his team-leading 12th goal for Buffalo. "Every game's the same," Sabres forward Stu Barnes said. "It's a one-goal game, but we're on the wrong end of it."

Game notes
Minnesota's power play, 1-for-22 over the last five games, did not register a shot three times and went 1-for-5. Buffalo's power play, ranked 26th in the league, went 1-for-4.< ^Notes:@ Wild defenseman Brad Bombardir returned to the lineup after missing Thursday's game with a concussion. ... Wild forward Wes Walz needed 11 stitches around his left eye after the puck struck him in the face in the second period. ... Sabres forward Jochen Hecht missed his ninth straight game since suffering a concussion on Dec. 7. ... Sabres forward Tim Connolly has not scored since Nov. 15, a 19-game stretch.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press