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BRUINS STRIKE EARLY TO CLIP SABRES, 3-2 BOSTON REBOUNDS FROM 7-1 MONTREAL LOSS TO PAD AUD STREAK

Boy, was that a surprise. After having their egos ravaged Saturday night in Montreal, who would have expected the Boston Bruins to enter Memorial Auditorium Sunday night intent on making amends?

The logical answer is "everyone." The correct response is "everyone but the Buffalo Sabres."

The Bruins easily were the better team for the first 40 minutes of their 3-2 victory over the Sabres.

Oh, the Sabres finally showed. After trailing, 3-0, they soothed 16,044 fans by threatening another comeback.

But bushels of time have passed since the Sabres have taken the Aud ice and displayed, right from the start, the ferocity of a team defending its beloved turf.

The Sabres twice have won home games by more than a goal, while frequently pulling out late wins and ties.

But it's a bad, self-defeating habit, and the Sabres see the character flaw.

"It's our building, I think we should set up the tempo of the game," said Benoit Hogue. "Boston got it and they started running us around and we just like froze for a second or something, like 'what's going on?'

"I think in our building, we have to be the ones hitting out there and making things happen. And it didn't happen at the start of the game."

The Sabres should know the Bruins well enough to realize Sunday's game would be no holds barred.

"Because they got beat, 7-1 (in Montreal), we should have known what was going to happen," said coach Rick Dudley. "They didn't want another loss after the humiliation in Montreal and they came out and worked hard."

"We were pretty desperate," said Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque. "We came in desperate to win and really established a good forechecking game right off in the first period."

It wasn't the first time. The victory ran the Bruins' Aud unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1) dating to last Dec. 13.

"It seems like whenever we come in here, we're in a situation where we have to come up with a big game," Bourque said. "There's really always something to play for in here. We know we have to play a good game to beat them as well. So it seems like we always find a way to win games here, especially when they are big ones, like tonight."

The stake was driven during what Dudley accurately labeled a "God-awful" first period. Don Sweeney and Bourque scored for Boston -- and it took great plays by Jay Wells and goaltender Clint Malarchuk to prevent the lead from doubling. Meanwhile, Buffalo was held to five shots and one scoring chance.

"We didn't have focus early, and I don't know if it was my fault or their (the players') fault," Dudley said.

Cam Neely pushed Boston's lead to 3-0 off a goal-mouth scramble at 4:22 of the third period. The Sabres took it as their entrance cue.

Rick Vaive scored his ninth at 6:46 on the deflection of a Hogue slap shot. And Dave Snuggerud followed with his third at 12:40, beating goaltender Andy Moog from the right faceoff circle.

Better late than never? No, better to get it straight from the start.

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