Series (Game 2 of 2)

St. Louis leads 2-0

Game 1: Thursday, January 30th
Game 2: Tuesday, February 11th

Blues 3

(30-15-4, 72 pts)

Sabres 2

(15-28-4, 41 pts)

7:00 PM ET, February 11, 2003

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

1 2 3 T
STL 0 2 13
BUF 2 0 02

T. Connolly (Sabres - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

S. Martins (Blues - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

A. Mair (Sabres - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Finley ends a 173-game goal drought for St. Louis

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- It's been so long -- almost 27 months -- that defenseman Jeff Finley can't remember scoring his last goal.

 Jeff Finley

It will be hard to forget his latest one. Finley scored with 4:59 left to end a 173-game drought, lifting the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

"No, I don't remember the last one. It's been a while," Finley said before being reminded that his last goal came in a game against Phoenix on Nov. 25, 2000. "It's fun. That's the name of the game, try and score. Especially when you get the game-winner, it's exciting."

Keith Tkachuk, extending his goal streak to six games, and Steve Martins also scored for the Blues, who rallied back after spotting the Sabres a 2-0 first-period lead.

St. Louis improved to 4-0-2 in its last six games and won despite losing top playmaker Doug Weight, who did not return after being cut below the nose when he was struck by a puck with eight minutes left in the second period.

Following the game, coach Joel Quenneville said Weight will be re-evaluated when the team returns to St. Louis, but probably won't play in the Blues' next game against Philadelphia on Thursday.

Adam Mair and Tim Connolly scored for the Sabres, winless in seven (0-5-0-2). The Sabres are also winless in their last nine games against the Blues (0-7-2), with their last victory coming Oct. 1, 1997.

"We're still finding ways not to win games," Sabres defenseman James Patrick said. "That was the difference tonight. They capitalized."

Rhett Warrener agreed.

"That's a good lead," he said. "It should be enough. We've proven this year that we're capable of blowing it."

Justin Papineau had a hand in the game-winning goal, driving up the right wing and getting a shot off. Martin Biron got a piece of it, but the rebound deflected to the left circle, where Finley -- pinching in from the point -- flipped it into the open side.

The goal was Finley's 13th -- and fourth game-winner -- in 634 NHL games.

The significance of Finley's goal was not lost on the Blues.

"We'll have to buy him something," said Tkachuk, who was playing for Phoenix when Finley scored his last goal. "I'm glad. We needed this win. That's the thing with the way we've played all year. We've been through so much, all the adversity, and it's different people stepping up."

The Sabres appeared in control when Mair, sneaking a backhander through Brent Johnson's legs, and Connolly established a 2-0 lead in the opening period.

The Blues, who mustered just eight shots on net in the first 30 minutes, finally responded with two goals in a 78-second span.

Tkachuk cut Buffalo's lead to 2-1 when he redirected Pavol Demitra's pass into the slot behind Biron with 5:45 left in the second period.

Martins then tied it, capitalizing on a Sabres' giveaway. Standing inside the Buffalo blue line, Martins intercepted Warrener's pass, drove to the net and wristed a hard shot, beating Biron on the glove side.

Tkachuk, who leads the Blues with 25 goals, scored his eighth and got 10th point in six games. He is tied for the NHL's second-longest goal streak this season, behind Columbus' Geoff Sanderson, who scored in seven consecutive games.

Game notes
Weight, who appeared woozy when helped off the ice, was hurt when he leaped in an attempt to bat down Biron's clearing shot. He was playing his second game after missing two after he hurt his ankle in last week's NHL All-Star game. ... Blues D Christian Backman, St. Louis' first-round selection in the 1998 draft, made his NHL debut, recording 6:35 of ice time. Before being called up last week, Backman had six goals and 21 points in 50 games with Worcester of the AHL. ... With 204 wins, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is seven victories short of passing Scotty Bowman as the franchise's winningest coach.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press