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Devils down Sabres; Brodeur into fourth on all-time wins list

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Another quality opponent produced
another quality performance from the New Jersey Devils.

Brian Gionta scored his team-leading 41st goal, Martin Brodeur
tied Jacques Plante on the NHL's career victories list and New
Jersey beat Buffalo 3-1 on Thursday night to move a step closer to
securing an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

New Jersey remained tied with Tampa Bay and Montreal -- all
winners Thursday night -- for sixth place with 83 points. All three
moved seven points ahead of ninth-place Atlanta, which lost to
Tampa Bay.

The Devils continued their pattern of saving their 'A' game for
the NHL's better teams. Since the beginning of February they have
beaten all five teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference:
Philadelphia, Ottawa (twice, including Tuesday night), Carolina,
the New York Rangers and now Buffalo.

"We've just been doing the things we have to do individually
and collectively in the system we play," coach Lou Lamoriello
said. "People are playing their roles."

The Devils' frequent downfall, though has been an inability to
put away the lesser teams. The Devils have lost to Toronto,
Pittsburgh, Boston and the New York Islanders in the last three
weeks.

"The way we've been playing, we've been playing well against
quality teams," said Zach Parise, who gave the Devils a 2-0 lead
with a third-period goal. "From here on out, we've got to do that
every night."

Parise is a recent addition to the first line with Gionta and
Scott Gomez, and has been enjoying the lofty view. Against the
Sabres, he scored a goal a split-second after the second-period
buzzer that was disallowed, then made amends early in the third
period when he took a feed from Gomez and stuffed the puck under
Biron.

"It's fun," Parise said. "I'm enjoying every minute of
playing with them. I know I have to be at the top of my game every
night -- I don't want to be the weak link."

Brodeur stopped 29 shots to tie Plante for fourth place on the
NHL's career victory list with 437. Brodeur withstood heavy
pressure from the Sabres in the first period and only lost his
chance for his sixth shutout of the season in the final 5 minutes
of the game when Tim Connolly beat him with a low wrist shot
through traffic.

The Devils jumped out to a lead in the game's first minute when
John Madden pounced on a rebound of a shot from the right point by
Paul Martin and flipped it over Biron. New Jersey maintained the
one-goal lead after the first period despite being outshot 16-8 by
the Sabres.

Buffalo, which played without captain Daniel Briere due to a
two-game suspension and was playing its second game in two nights,
lost its seventh game in its last eight.

"We played a very good road game for two periods," said
goaltender Martin Biron, who finished with 25 saves. "We were all
over them. Marty made some big saves that kept them in the game. If
we play like that on the road, defensively and crashing the net,
we'll be OK."

Connolly scored with a little more than 5 minutes left to cut
the Devils lead to 2-1, but Gionta scored 1:05 later to give the
Devils a two-goal cushion.

Coming on the heels of Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win at Ottawa,
Thursday's win put the Devils in the right frame of mind for
another big game at Philadelphia on Saturday.

"In the last few games we've done a good job of playing with
intensity, and playing desperate," Gionta said. "That's what we
need to do for the next nine games. When we sit back and let other
teams take it to us, that's when we get in trouble."

Game Notes
Briere was suspended for two games Thursday by the NHL for
hitting Boston's Brian Leetch with a high stick Wednesday night.
Briere also will miss a game at Toronto on Saturday ... Sabres D
Teppo Numminen sat with a sprained knee. He was injured Wednesday
... Buffalo had scored four goals in each of its last three games
before Thursday.