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Sabres edge closer to division top with win over Sens

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Buffalo rookie Thomas Vanek had something
special for his shootout attempt against one of the top goalies in
the world.

Utilizing what his coach Lindy Ruff said was an "around the
world" move, Vanek beat goalie Dominik Hasek to give the Sabres a
2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators in a matchup of the two top teams
in the Northeast Division on Saturday night.

Approaching the slot, Vanek moved his stick around the puck
while faking a shot, then re-loaded and deposited a wrister into
the top right corner.

"He's such a good goalie that you have to do something
different to beat him," said Vanek, who also beat Hasek in a
shootout in preseason. "There was a little bit of luck, but it
still felt good."

"I don't know if he surprised me," Hasek said. "I went to
make a butterfly stop and went down. He shot it top shelf and my
glove wasn't there. It was a goal scorer's move."

Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller then stopped Senators captain Daniel
Alfredsson's attempt in the final round to get the win, which
pulled the Sabres within four points of the division-leading
Senators.

"I tried to get the glove forward on him and not give him any
angle," said Miller, who has won seven of his last eight starts.
"It's not really a save, it's more taking space away."

Mike Fisher and Dany Heatley also failed in their shootout bids
to beat Miller.

Ottawa had owned Buffalo in its previous three meetings before
Saturday, beating them in all three games by a combined score of
21-5. The high-flying game that many expected for their latest
matchup didn't materialize, but the intensity level didn't
disappoint.

"It was a playoff atmosphere tonight," Vanek said. "Ottawa is
a Top 3 team in the NHL. It's a big win for us.

"It was a high-paced game, especially in the first period. Both
teams knew the importance of it."

Ales Kotalik scored in regulation for Buffalo, which won its
fifth straight. Miller made 28 saves and extended his personal
winning streak to five games.

"He gave our club a lot of confidence," Ruff said of Miller.

Bryan Smolinski scored for the Senators, who have lost three of
their last four games. Hasek finished with 26 saves, and has
dropped two of his last three starts.

Hasek was making his second start in Buffalo after spending nine
seasons with the Sabres beginning in 1992. In his first start while
playing for Detroit in March 2002, he was pulled after allowing
four goals in two periods.

Ottawa is now 8-7-1 since the beginning of the calendar year.

"We've been struggling since Christmas," Hasek said. "We
played a good game, but unfortunately it wasn't enough for us to
win it."

Kotalik opened the scoring with his team-leading 21st goal at
12:11 of the first period while the teams were playing 4-on-4.
Setting up at the top of the left circle, Kotalik one-timed Jochen
Hecht's cross-ice pass to beat Hasek.

Smolinski tied it at 1 with just over 15 minutes left in the
second. Peter Schaefer outmuscled two Buffalo defenders behind the
net, while Miller started moving to the left post. Schaefer was
able to slid the puck to the opposite side, where Smolinski stuffed
it into the open net.

Ottawa is now 2-1-1 when tied after two periods of play, while
Buffalo improved to 8-2-1.

"It was a tight game," said Heatley. "It's just tough to lose
in a shootout."

Game notes
The two teams will play four more times over a 22-day span
starting on March 18 when they meet in Ottawa. ... Senators D Brian
Pothier returned to the lineup after missing the last two games
with food poisoning. ... Kotalik tied his career high of 21 goals
originally set in 2002-03. ... Ottawa was playing its fourth game
in the last six days. ... Senators enforcer Brian McGrattan
immediately left the ice and didn't return following a first period
fight with Buffalo forward Andrew Peters. Senators officials said
McGrattan's right eye had swelled up.