Series (Game 1 of 1)

Nashville leads 1-0

Game 1: Monday, January 27th

Predators 5

(17-21-4, 46 pts)

Sabres 1

(15-24-3, 40 pts)

7:00 PM ET, January 27, 2003

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

1 2 3 T
NSH 3 1 15
BUF 0 0 11

V. Yachmenev (Predators - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

T. Vokoun (Predators - G): Saves: 20, Save Pct.: .952

J. York (Predators - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

Still without shutout, Preds easily beat Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- With more than 44 minutes left to play, goaltender Tomas Vokoun allowed himself to smile. It's not often the defensive-minded Nashville Predators hold a three-goal lead.

"I'm not used to it,'' Vokoun said. "It's fun for a goalie. You can just play and enjoy it.''

There was plenty to be happy about as the Predators matched a season high for goals in a 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

Vitali Yachmenev and Rem Murray scored 58 seconds apart to cap a three-goal first period. Adam Hall and Jason York, with a goal and assist each, and David Legwand also scored for the Predators.

The only thing missing was Vokoun earning his first shutout of the season, a bid which ended when Chris Gratton beat him with a one-timer 4:38 into the third period.

"I'm not going to lie to you, I'd like to have a shutout,'' said Vokoun, who stopped 20 shots and improved to 7-2-1 in his last 10. "But it's OK. It was a nice play and they scored. That's fine.''

In improving to 4-1-1 in their last six, the Predators beat what had been a streaking Sabres team.

Coming off Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss at Ottawa, the Sabres ended a run in which they had at least one standings point in eight straight games (5-0-2-1).

The Sabres provided no excuses.

"It was unacceptable and ugly,'' coach Lindy Ruff said. "They didn't hit anybody. They did not get involved or engage. ... It was a poor, poor effort.''

Sabres captain Stu Barnes agreed.

"We obviously had a good run, but the game we played tonight was a terrible game,'' Barnes said. "We're not going to make excuses. It wasn't a good enough effort.''

While rookie goalie Ryan Miller was beaten on three of the first eight shots he faced, he got little help from his defense, which was guilty of both turnovers and standing around in its own zone.

Nashville's first two goals came during scrambles in front of the net when Predators forwards outworked Sabres defenders to the puck.

Hall opened the scoring five minutes in, jamming in a loose puck during a scramble.

Yachmenev, with his first goal in 49 games, made it 2-0 by tapping in Vladimir Orszagh's pass through the crease with 6:52 left in the period. Murray followed, snapping a shot from the right circle that beat Miller inside the far post.

The Predators eventually built a 5-0 lead before Gratton one-timed in Miroslav Satan's centering pass.

While the Predators rank second to last in the NHL in averaging a little more than 2.2 goals a game, they have been more consistent of late. Nashville has scored three or more goals in 13 of 17 games.

"You just want to ride it while things are going well,'' Hall said. "Maybe it's just the team's overall confidence is going up, guys start shooting the puck with more confidence and the plays start happening for us.''

Game notes

Predators captain Greg Johnson logged more than 13 minutes of ice time, returning to action after missing 44 games with concussion-related symptoms. ... Hall's game-opening goal marked the first time the Sabres allowed a first-period goal in seven games. ... Nashville has yet to lose at Buffalo, improving to 3-0-1 in the Predators' five-year history -- the only NHL team the Sabres have yet to beat at home. ... Predators LW Scott Hartnell had two assists, extending his points streak to six games, a stretch in which he has two goals and 10 points. ... Nashville is the NHL's only team not to record a shutout this season.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press