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A preseason win has been rare for the Buffalo Sabres in recent seasons, so they must have been delighted to record a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning here Sunday night.

The win was Buffalo's first of the exhibition season, leveling its preseason record at 1-1-1. The victory was only the second such triumph in Lindy Ruff's tenure of more than two years as coach of the team; the other came in 1998.

Buffalo took the lead for good with 4:46 left in the contest. Stu Barnes' shot on a power play went over Lightning goaltender Daren Puppa and into the top corner of the net. Brian Holzinger assisted on the goal. Domenic Pittis wrapped up the win with an empty-netter.

Buffalo rookie defenseman Brian Campbell and Tampa Bay's Steve Guolla scored power-play goals.

Dwayne Roloson saw his first action of the preseason in the Sabres' goal, playing the opening 30 minutes. Martin Biron finished.

The previous evening, in a 5-2 victory over the Sabres, Tampa Bay goalie Dan Cloutier was ejected for a two-handed slash to the head of Buffalo's Dixon Ward. He was given a major penalty.

The Sabres will play in Detroit on Wednesday night, and will host Washington on Friday night in Marine Midland Arena.

Malakhov needs surgery

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Vladimir Malakhov will miss four months after tearing a ligament in his right knee in an exhibition game Friday.

Malakhov, who led Montreal defensemen in scoring last season with 34 points in 62 games, is to have surgery Tuesday morning.

The Canadiens are also missing veteran defenseman Patrice Brisebois, who has a back injury, and versatile forward Benoit Brunet is out of action for at least two months with a back injury.

Around the rinks

Atlanta Thrashers left wing Vladimir Vujtek was released from a local hospital Sunday after undergoing 2 1/2 hours of plastic surgery and receiving more than 100 stitches to his right cheek. He was cut Saturday by the skate of Rangers forward Valeri Kamensky. The New York Islanders have signed restricted free agent center Mats Lindgren to a two-year contract worth $1.475 million with a salary base for this season of $625,000. Lindgren was acquired March 20 from Edmonton for goalie Tommy Salo

Peter Karmanos and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch have been rivals in Detroit for years. Ilitch is still bitter over the $38 million offer sheet Karmanos gave Sergei Fedorov three years ago. The front-loaded offer -- matched by the Wings -- forced Ilitch to give his star $28 million, a financial drain still being felt.

Now, Ilitch has an opportunity for revenge. Keith Primeau, traded by the Wings to the Whalers in '96, is a restricted free agent. The Wings, according to the Hartford Courant, are contemplating a huge offer that would stick Karmanos with an overpriced contract.
If a group put together by former Madison Square Garden president Bob Gutkowski completes the purchase of the New York Islanders, Mike Milbury, who spent the past year dumping salaries, may be out as general manager. The new group reportedly wants to hire its own management team.

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