Sabres Stop Stars

After an 0-5-1 start on the road, the Buffalo Sabres just wanted a victory. Getting it in Dallas against the team they lost to in the Stanley Cup finals only made it sweeter.

Jason Woolley and Dixon Ward capitalized on Dallas defensive blunders to score their first goals of the season, sending the Sabres past the struggling Stars 3-1 Wednesday night in their lone meeting this season.

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  • "Perhaps there was a little motivation from last season, but our main concern was getting things turned around this season," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff.

    Despite the black Stanley Cup champions flag looming high above the Sabres' blue line, Buffalo overcame a 1-0 deficit for the first time in seven tries and ended a four-game road losing streak.

    "Playing well against them in the playoffs gave us confidence," said Sabres captain Michael Peca, who had two assists. "That carried over to tonight."

    "Revenge has nothing to do with it. We just needed a win on the road against anybody."

    Dallas sank into its first three-game losing streak since April 1998. The last two have been against teams that came in winless on the road.

    "We're not playing good hockey and we know it," said Mike Keane, whose rebound goal early in the first period put the Stars ahead 1-0. "We're trying to get better, but it's not happening."

    With both teams struggling, the finals rematch lacked the intensity of a budding rivalry. And the fast tempo was nothing like the plodding grudge match of their six-game championship series.

    But the biggest difference was the way the Stars' defense let them down.

    Derian Hatcher was slow getting up from a collision that took down him and Michal Grosek, but Grosek recovered to score the goal that tied the game late in the first period.

    Midway through the second period, Hatcher tried clearing the puck from in front of the Dallas net and ended up sending it straight to Woolley, who had shaken his defender. He punched the puck past Ed Belfour for a 2-1 lead.

    The Sabres made it 3-1 with a shorthanded goal by Ward with 12:56 left to play. The play began when Peca picked off a lazy pass behind the Dallas net. Belfour blocked Peca's shot, but Ward slid toward the goal and punched in the rebound.

    "When you make the big error, you're going to give up big goals," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That third goal took us right out of the game."

    Dallas' frustration boiled over soon after when Buffalo goalie Martin Biron made a save and jabbed his glove at Stars foward Jamie Langenbrunner. Langenbrunner countered with a punch into Biron's facemask and bodies started flying.

    Two Sabres took down Langenbrunner from behind and a pileup followed. Langenbrunner, who received a double minor for roughing, skated away with blood on his right cheekbone. Biron and Buffalo defenseman Alexei Zhitnik also were penalized for roughing.

    The Sabres defense was as solid as it was tough. They did a great job of protecting Biron in his first start since learning two-time NHL MVP Dominik Hasek will be out for months with a groin injury.

    Although many of Biron's 18 saves had long rebounds, Buffalo cleared them without harm after Keane's goal 6:52 into the game. He also had a clear view of his toughest stop, a 30-foot slapshot by Brett Hull early in the third period that went right into Biron's glove.

    "That was very good for me," said Biron, who has been in goal for three of Buffalo's four wins.

    Dallas fell to 6-6-1, putting the two-time President's trophy winners deeper into their worst start in years.

    This is the latest the Stars have been at .500 since 1995-96, their last non-playoff season, and it's the earliest they've had six losses since '94-95. Last season, their sixth loss came on Jan. 8, in their 37th game.

    A lack of offense has been the biggest problem. Dallas has just 10 goals in its last eight games.

    Belfour, who allowed only one goal in the last 207 minutes of the finals and stopped 53 of 54 shots in the marathon Game 6, stopped 21 shots.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed