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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.