Briere posts three assists as Sabres hang on for 3-2 win over Devils

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Briere set up all three Buffalo goals as the Sabres took a comfortable lead and then held on in the final minute for a 3-2 victory over the Devils on Tuesday night.

New Jersey, one of the NHL's top defensive teams, twice turned the puck over to Briere in the third period. He made them pay for the errors.

"We knew coming in that we weren't going to get too many odd-man rushes," Briere said. "They play it tight, they play it tough. We were able to connect on our few odd-man rushes. Against the Devils, that's the way you've got to beat them."

Jochen Hecht, Maxim Afinogenov and Jason Pominville scored as the Eastern Conference-leading Sabres improved to 14-3 on the road. Ryan Miller got his first win in five decisions against the Devils despite giving up goals to Eric Rasmussen and Brian Gionta 21 seconds apart in the final minute of the game.

The Sabres cooled off one of the NHL's hottest home teams in a building where they had lost eight in a row to the Devils. New Jersey fell to 11-2-1 at home and had a five-game winning streak overall snapped.

Hecht gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 12:05 of the second when he started and finished a scoring play. Hecht fed a pass to Briere, who shot from the slot. Martin Brodeur made an arm save, and Hecht pounced on the rebound for his seventh goal.

Briere twice victimized Devils defenceman Brian Rafalski as the Sabres extended the lead to 3-0 in the third.

Briere stripped the puck from Rafalski along the boards to trigger the break that produced Afinogenov's goal at 3:12. Briere nudged the puck away from Rafalski at the Sabres blue line to key the rush that Pominville finished at 5:29.

"That last goal sealed the deal for them," Brodeur said. "They capitalized by putting pressure on our defence. They went for that third goal when it was 2-0 and they got it. Give them credit. They got another break and they put it in."

Miller seemed to have his fourth shutout in hand until Rasmussen scored with 39.1 seconds remaining. Rasmussen chopped the puck out of the air and into the net, forcing a video review before the goal was ruled good.

"I thought he hit it with a high stick," Miller said. "They took long enough, so hopefully the review went to Toronto for the right call. Shutouts come and go. The most important thing is that we came in here and got the win."

Gionta closed the scoring with 19 seconds remaining.

The Devils outshot the Sabres 15-8 in the first period and had the two best scoring chances. Jamie Langenbrunner hit the post about six minutes in and Gionta couldn't deposit a rebound into a wide-open left half of the net in the final minute.

"I thought the first period was as good as we've had," Devils coach Claude Julien said. "Later, we had a few breakdowns. They made us pay dearly for the mistakes we did make."

Notes: Two players who missed practice Monday were in the lineup. Afinogenov rested a sore groin while the Devils gave Rafalski a day off to rest. ... For Buffalo, co-captain Chris Drury missed the game with the flu and defenceman Teppo Numminen sat out a second game with a broken toe. ... Brodeur is 21-13-5 against Buffalo.


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