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Sabres win fourth of five

1/30/2004

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Buffalo Sabres are putting themselves in
position to make a surprising run at the playoffs. The New York
Rangers' road to the postseason is growing tougher with every loss.

Daniel Briere and Chris Drury each scored a power-play goal, and
Martin Biron made 33 saves to lift the Sabres to a 3-1 victory over
New York on Friday night.

Ales Kotalik added an empty-net goal with 36.6 seconds remaining
to help the Sabres win for the fourth time in five games and pull
within five points of the New York Islanders for the final playoff
spot in the Eastern Conference.

"They way I look at it, the seventh and eighth teams in the
conference will be three or four games over .500," Biron said
after the Sabres improved to 22-25-5-1. "That's where we've got to
get. We've got a lot of big games upcoming against conference teams
and we're trying to get on a roll."

Dale Purinton scored for the fading Rangers, who have lost six
of seven. They are a point behind Buffalo and Atlanta in the
standings.

"We've put ourselves in a bit of a hole here," captain Mark
Messier said. "We're looking up again. We have to find a way to
win games."

The Rangers will have to find their way without Eric Lindros for
now. They learned Friday that the star center will be sidelined
indefinitely after sustaining the eighth concussion of his career
Wednesday against Washington.

Mike Dunham returned from his concussion after missing two games
and made 32 saves for New York, but it wasn't enough to avert
another defeat.

"We don't have much time left," Purinton said. "Every game is
huge and we've got to do something to win some. The time to press
the panic button is here."

It was the Sabres and Biron who kept their cool, especially in
the third period.

"In the third period, he stepped over the line and got a couple
of fabulous saves for us," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.

Briere scored the only goal of the first period at 12:36. With
Rangers defenseman Boris Mironov serving a double minor for
high-sticking, Alexei Zhitnik took a shot from the point that
Dunham blocked. Jochen Hecht grabbed the rebound and passed through
the crease to Briere.

Drury cashed in on another power play to give the Sabres a 2-0
lead at 18:02 of the second. Briere also played a key role, passing
to Drury, who beat Dunham from close range.

Purinton scored for New York 45 seconds later with a shot from
the left point as Rangers wing Matthew Barnaby appeared to screen
Biron.

Both teams had apparent goals nullified by video reviews in the
third period

The Sabres almost got a third goal five minutes in when Kotalik
took a shot that dribbled through Dunham's pads. Drury drove to the
net, trying to reach the puck as it trickled toward the goal line.
Rangers forward Chris Simon knocked Drury into the net and, in the
ensuing pileup, Drury, Simon and the puck all wound up in the cage.

The goal was disallowed after a lengthy video review when the
officials ruled Drury knocked the puck into the net with his hand.

Video goal judge John Damante ruled that Jamie Lundmark's bid
for a tying goal with 2:51 remaining never fully crossed the goal
line.

Game notes
Rangers RW Jaromir Jagr played in his 1,000th NHL game. ...
The game began a home-and-home series that concludes Saturday night
in Buffalo. ... Mark Messier moved into Lindros' spot as the center
between Jagr and Martin Rucinsky. ... Briere's goal was his 16th of
the season and first in eight games. ... Purinton got his first
goal of the season and only the fourth in his 157-game career. ...
The Islanders have two games in hand on the Sabres.