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Sabres have a shot at eighth

3/18/2004

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Buffalo Sabres stopped fighting long enough
to pull off a comeback.

Derek Roy scored a fluky goal 15 seconds into overtime after the
Sabres rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final 7:37 of the
third period, beating the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 Wednesday night.

The game was marred by numerous fights, the last coming when
Atlanta enforcer Francis Lessard jumped on Buffalo strongman Andrew
Peters with 14:22 left in regulation.

Lessard was ejected from the game and the Sabres, trailing 3-1,
wound up with a seven-minute power play. They capitalized with just
15 seconds left in the advantage, getting a goal from Andrew Mair.

Jochen Hecht tied it for the Sabres 56 seconds later. Milan
Bartovic skated behind the net and flipped a pass out front to his
teammate, who put it through Pasi Nurminen's legs with 6:13 left.

Nurminen had several spectacular saves among his 29 stops, but
he looked foolish in overtime. Roy fired a shot from the top of the
circle that caught the goalie in the chest, fell at his skates and
slid into the net.

From Roy's perspective, that merely evened things out.

"The last game against Toronto, we had three fluke goals scored
on us -- off skates, off sticks, off the goalie's pads," he said.
"We just got some good luck today because we worked really hard
all game. I think we deserved it."

The Sabres played their fourth straight overtime game, finally
winning one after losing three straight in the extra period. They
moved within four points of the New York Islanders for the final
playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Andy Sutton tied a career high with two goals for the Thrashers,
but it wasn't enough.

Showing that little has changed since Todd Bertuzzi's blindside
attack on Steve Moore, the teams carried over the bad blood from
their previous meeting -- Buffalo's 7-2 victory last month that
included 118 minutes in penalties.

This one was even worse. Atlanta was penalized 19 times for 72
minutes, Buffalo 15 times for 53 minutes -- a total of 125 minutes.

Atlanta's enforcers, Lessard and Kip Brennan, were involved in
two fights apiece. Buffalo's Daniel Briere was knocked out of the
game when Sutton delivered an elbow to the head in the third
period.

"It's getting ridiculous," said Briere, who might have a
concussion. "You can't even skate anymore. You have to look all
around, for you don't know who's coming at you. It's ridiculous.
They have no respect for players."

In between all the fisticuffs, J.P. Dumont gave Buffalo a 1-0
lead late in the first period, Ilya Kovalchuk tied it with his 38th
of the season and Sutton put the Thrashers ahead 3-1 with
back-to-back goals. The defenseman's only other two-goal game was
Oct. 12, 2002, against Chicago.

The punches came early and often. Less than three minutes in,
Brennan squared off with Peters in a battle of enforcers. Peters
was the clear winner, decking Brennan with a crisp right hand.

After those two were escorted to the penalty box -- where Brennan
applied an ice pack to his face -- the Thrashers sent out their
other heavyweight. Lessard immediately went after Buffalo's Eric
Boulton and gained some revenge for Brennan's beating, taking out
Boulton with a series of left hands.

Lessard skated off with a gap-toothed smile, waving his left
index finger in the air.

But Lessard cost the Thrashers dearly in the third when, with
his team up two goals, he attacked Peters right off a faceoff. The
Buffalo player smartly dropped to his knees and covered up while
Lessard punched him in the back of the neck, getting ejected and
giving the Sabres their long power play.

Peters waved derisively at Lessard as the Atlanta player left
the ice.

"We had the game under control," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley
said. "With that seven-minute power play, though, we couldn't find
momentum again."

Peters goaded Lessard into the one-sided fight -- a heady move by
a guy who normally contributes with his fists.

"We have a good, rough team," Peters said proudly. "We have
the heart to do what we have to do."

Even Kovalchuk was in a fighting mood, jumping on Bartovic and
pummeling him with punches after the Buffalo player delivered a
cheap shot during a scrum in front of the net.

Game notes
Atlanta LW Serge Aubin sustained a thigh contusion in the
second period and didn't return. ... Kovalchuk tied his career high
with 38 goals. ... Buffalo LW Taylor Pyatt separated his collarbone
and is expected to be out three weeks, coach Lindy Ruff said.