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Gionta scores two, dishes one

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The New Jersey Devils' stifling defense
extended the Buffalo Sabres' prolonged scoring slump.

Martin Brodeur made 31 saves and Brian Gionta had two goals and
an assist to lift the Devils to a 5-2 win over Buffalo on Friday
night.

The Devils have allowed more than two goals just eight times
this season, and the Sabres haven't scored more than twice in a
game since Dec. 3.

The game did not set up well for Buffalo, which lost its
seventh-straight game, tying a franchise record.

The Devils boosted their mark to 6-1-1 over their last eight
games and moved within two points of Philadelphia for first place
in the Atlantic Division.

"We have a great system that gives us a chance to win every
night," said Gionta, who grew up in Rochester, 60 miles from
Buffalo. "It's a veteran-led team, and the young guys just
follow."

With his father and brother in attendance, Gionta scored for the
first time in Buffalo.

"It's nice to come here and score because it's so close to
home," Gionta said.

John Madden added a goal and an assist, and Jeff Friesen and
Sergei Brylin also scored for the Devils, who have allowed a
league-low 50 goals.

Ales Kotalik and Adam Mair scored for Buffalo, which lost five
straight at home and scored just eight goals during the skid.

The Sabres, coming off a discouraging 2-1 loss Tuesday in
Pittsburgh, played the Devils hard for the first part of the game
and outshot them 9-5 in the first period.

But the Devils, who shut out Atlanta on Thursday, took over in
the second.

Gionta opened the scoring at 5:27 of the middle period, banging
home his own rebound from in front of Martin Biron.

Kotalik tied it at 1-all with his eighth goal of the year, snapping
a wrist shot from the top of the right circle past Brodeur after
Devils defenseman Tommy Albelin turned the puck over at the blue
line.

Friesen put the Devils ahead 2-1 with 1:15 remaining in the
second on a power-play goal, beating Biron with a wrist shot from
the slot.

"They came at us hard, but Marty was there for us to make the
big saves," Friesen said.

The Sabres have lost seven consecutive games four times in their
34-year history, including their first season in 1970-71. The last
time was in 1993-94.

"We played a good first period and dominated play," Sabres
coach Lindy Ruff said. "The frustration level is pretty high."

The Sabres have also lost five straight at home, scoring just
eight goals during the stretch.

New Jersey put the game away in the third with three goals.

Gionta's second of the game and seventh of the season gave New
Jersey a 3-1 lead with 15:03 remaining. Coming out of the penalty
box after serving a four-minute high sticking penalty, Gionta broke
in on a two-on-one with Scott Gomez. Gomez slid the puck to Gionta,
who redirected it past Biron.

"I just went to the net with my stick on the ice, and he just
got it to me," Gionta said.

Mair closed the gap to 3-2 just 50 seconds later, but the Devils
regained their two-goal advantage when Madden scored at 8:06.

Brylin's power-play goal capped the scoring with just over five
minutes remaining.

"We knew they were trying to get out of their slump and they
were going to come at us hard," Devils coach Pat Burns said.
"They did, but we weathered the storm."

Biron, who was making his first start since a 3-1 loss to Tampa
Bay on Dec. 6, finished with 13 saves.

"They took advantage of their power play when they had to,"
Biron said.

The Devils have won seven of their last 11 games against the
Sabres and are 2-0-2 in their last four games against Buffalo on
the road, including a 2-2 tie in November in a neutral-site game
in Rochester, N.Y.

"When you allow two goals, you should win," said Brodeur, who
won his league-leading 18th game of the year.

There was speculation Brodeur was going to be given a rest in
favor of backup Corey Schwab, but Burns turned to his workhorse.
Brodeur has started all but one game this season.

"We have the confidence knowing that he's going to be there and
up for the challenge, and he loves it," Friesen said about Brodeur.
"The pressure never gets to him, that's the key."

Gomez added two assists for New Jersey, who are 3-1 on a
five-game road trip that concludes Sunday in Chicago.

Game notes
The Sabres played their first game without C Chris Drury,
who will be out for a week after separating his shoulder against
Pittsburgh on Tuesday. ... Buffalo D Jay McKee played for the first
time since injuring his knee against the Devils on Nov. 19. ...
Biron has started all three games against the Devils this season.
... Prior to Friday, the Sabres never had lost when Kotalik scored.