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SABRES HAND BLACKHAWKS THEIR HATS

The Chicago Blackhawks are the kind of team that likes to invite you into the house, take your coat and hat and, occasionally, your head right along with it.

They even smile when they do it.

Wednesday night in Chicago Stadium, the Buffalo Sabres wiped that smile off the Blackhawks' faces and walked out with a 3-2 victory before 17,572.

And they had their heads held high when they did it.

"It's another big win for us," said Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk after he turned aside 33 shots in hoisting the Sabres to their fourth consecutive road victory and their second in 24 hours (they beat Philadelphia, 3-2, Tuesday night).

"We knew before we came out that a win would be four in a row and put us over .500 (on the road, 12-11-4). That was important to us," Malarchuk said. "The good teams do well at home and play .500 or better on the road. We want to do that."

The Sabres have been struggling a bit at home but they've become an exceptionally good team on the road. Wednesday's win extends a streak that began at Vancouver and went through Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chicago. The Canucks, Kings and Flyers were struggling when they met the Sabres, but the Hawks weren't.

Chicago came to this game 6-2-2 in its last 10, 8-4-2 in its last 14 and 13-5-2 in its last 20. The Hawks have been especially tough at home, 5-1-1 in their previous seven and 16-4-1 in their last 21.

That's what made this win all the more sweet for the Sabres, and especially Malarchuk.

"I need a win bad," Malarchuk said. "Anytime a goaltender gets yanked (as Malarchuk did in the first period of a 6-3 loss to Washington in his last start) he wants to come right back with a big game. Mentally, that's tough on your confidence. You want to get right back in there and get your confidence back."

That can be hard to do in Chicago Stadium, a raucous place where the home team always seems to play a little taller with 17,000-plus zealots behind them.

Chicago took advantage of that to outshoot the Sabres, 9-3, in the first period and 35-25 for the game. They also threw around a fair share of body slams, and -- late in the game -- one very high stick. But when the Hawks came away empty-handed after the first period, the Sabres knew they were not only in the game, but likely to win it.

"We've been getting the big stops when we've needed them and that's kept us going," said Pierre Turgeon, a hero in his own right with two goals, including the game winner. "Tonight, Clint was doing it. He held us in until we were able to get the ones we needed."

The big ones came in a span just about equal to the spurt Buffalo put forth against the Flyers in Tuesday's win at Philadelphia.

Doug Wilson and Jeremy Roenick had scored goals around one by Sabres defenseman Doug Bodger.

Turgeon then scored a goal late in the second period that brought Buffalo to a 2-2 tie and it seemed to take much of the life out of the Hawks. He followed up with a power-play tally midway through the third and the Sabres made it stand up.

"That was the tough one," said Blackhawks goalie Jacques Cloutier. "I was down and Doug (Wilson) was on top of me. Pierre has the puck and bingo."

Cloutier, who suffered more than his share of one-goal defeats when he was a Sabre, said he knew Turgeon was coming free in front, but he had to concern himself with another old friend, Dave Andreychuk.

"Dave had the puck behind the net and I pretty much had to play him to take it out because he's so dangerous that way. I went over to that side, but he put it in front."

Turgeon had all the time he needed to simply lift it up over both Wilson and his former roommate. The way the Sabres have been able to defend a one-goal lead of late (this was their 12th one-goal victory), this game was essentially over.

This time Buffalo got some help. Bodger was cut by the high stick of another former Sabre, Adam Creighton, at the 16:41 mark. Creighton drew blood and was banished for the remainder of the game. The Sabres used the power play to kill the clock.

"Clint and the guys made that stand up," said Sabres coach Rick Dudley. "I've said all along it doesn't matter which one (goalie) is in there."

Now, it doesn't even matter where.

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