Final OT

Series (Game 4 of 4)

New Jersey leads 3-0

Game 1: Friday, October 25th
Game 2: Tuesday, November 19th
Game 3: Tuesday, February 4th
Game 4: Sunday, April 6th

Devils 2

(46-20-6, 108 pts)

Sabres 2

(27-37-8, 72 pts)

2:00 PM ET, April 6, 2003

First Niagara Center, Buffalo, New York

1 2 3 OT T
NJ 1 1 0 02
BUF 0 2 0 02

M. Satan (Sabres - RW): Goals: 0, Assists: 1

A. Kotalik (Sabres - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

C. Schwab (Devils - G): Saves: 28, Save Pct.: .933

Devils 6-0-4-1 in their last 11 games

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Coach Pat Burns doesn't put much stock in strong finishes translating into postseason success.

And that includes his New Jersey Devils, who wrapped up the regular season with points in 11 straight games with a 2-2 tie against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

"People always tend to think that it's very important the way you finish the season,'' Burns said. "I don't really look into it that much. I never have. I've seen teams get blown out in their last three games and win Stanley Cups.''

The game had little impact on the standings as the Devils had already clinched first-place in the Atlantic Division, and are locked into opening the playoffs against the seventh-place Boston Bruins. New Jersey finished on a 6-0-4-1 run.

The Sabres had been eliminated two weeks earlier, and were intent on closing a tumultuous season on a strong note.

Patrik Elias, with the game-tying goal, and Grant Marshall scored for the Devils, who finished with 108 points -- three short of the franchise record set in the 2000-01 season. New Jersey also equaled a franchise mark in allowing 166 goals, and finished in a tie with Philadelphia for the fewest yielded in the NHL this season.

Ales Kotalik and Alexei Zhitnik scored for the Sabres. Buffalo finished 5-2-1 in its last eight games and 5-0-1 in its last six home games.

Not bad for a team that played the season without an owner and was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -- joining the Ottawa Senators -- last January. The Sabres are on the verge of being sold to Rochester billionaire B. Thomas Golisano.

Among his first decisions will be whether to rehire coach Lindy Ruff, whose contract has expired, and whether to retain general manager Darcy Regier. Regier's future in Buffalo remains uncertain despite Golisano's intention to pick up the remaining four years of his contract.

Golisano would only say that he plans to sit down with both Ruff and Regier and announce a decision within days.

Ruff, who surpassed Scotty Bowman as the franchise's winningest coach earlier this season, said he is interested in staying.

"I'm excited about sitting down and talking to him,'' Ruff said. "We haven't had a lengthy conversation, and I'm looking forward to that. But I've got no timetable.''

Elias tied it at 2 with a nifty move 13:44 into the second period. Getting a loose puck in the corner, Elias burst to the front of the net and, avoiding Mika Noronen's poke check, slipped the puck under the goaltender.

After Marshall opened the scoring, the Sabres responded when Kotalik and Zhitnik scored two minutes apart to put Buffalo ahead by the 3:09 mark of the second period.

The Devils rallied despite resting four veterans: goaltender Martin Brodeur, center Joe Nieuwendyk and defensemen Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.

"You want to feel good about your team and confident about your individual play,'' Devils veteran Ken Daneyko said. "We've been better the last month of the season, but the slate really is wiped clean. It is a new season and hopefully we'll pick up where we left off.''

Game notes

The Sabres honored their past by bringing back their still popular blue and gold uniforms as a one-time promotion. It's the first time the Sabres wore them since changing to their current red and black colors in 1996. Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert said the players didn't learn of the change until 15 minutes before the game. ... The Sabres established a franchise low in finishing the season with 190 goals, eclipsing the previous mark of 203 in 1995-96. ... Daneyko, who's played 18 NHL seasons, favored the Sabres' retro look. "I know everybody's into black and red these days for merchandising, but I like the traditional Sabres uniform,'' he said.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press