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SABRES SUDDENLY ON THE OFFENSIVE AUDETTE'S 'TRICK', HASEK'S SHUTOUT HIGHLIGHT ROMP

Perhaps for the first time ever Thursday night a Buffalo Sabres player scored a hat trick at Memorial Auditorium and was not selected one of the game's three stars.

It was that kind of night for the Sabres in their 7-0 romp over the Ottawa Senators before 12,386.

Overlooked in the three-star selec-tions was Donald Audette even though he had his first NHL three-goal game and raised his goals total to a team-high 17. Audette's third goal came with 1:35 left in the game and the outcome no longer in doubt. By then the Sabres' pressbox personnel had collected and tallied the media ballots.

"I can't worry about that stuff," Audette said of the oversight. "Everybody played well. Tough choice."

Audette seemed more concerned that his father, Claude, was able to view the game on satellite back home in Quebec.

"He's always asking me when am I going to get a hat trick," Audette said.

Combined with the five-goal effort against Quebec Tuesday, 12 goals in two games is remarkable for a team that only three days ago was second from the bottom in NHL scoring. The margin of victory against Ottawa was the Sabres' largest this season by far. Buffalo had not beaten an opponent by more than three goals all season, and had not beaten a team by five or more goals since a 5-0 victory over Boston last April 1.

The Sabres improved their record to 14-12-5. Their 33 points is good for sixth place overall in the Eastern Conference standings which determines the playoff berths.

On a night when first star Alexander Mogilny registered a career-high four assists, second star Jason Dawe scored a pair of goals and an assist and third star Dominik Hasek turned in his third shutout, it was almost excusable that Audette was ignored, even though his hat trick was the first for a Sabre since Derek Plante did it Dec. 1, 1993, against Tampa Bay.

"We were more worried about this game than Quebec. We did not want to have a letdown," said assistant coach Don Lever, who along with fellow assistant John Tortorella directed the team while coach John Muckler served the second of his three-game NHL suspension.

Ottawa had taken three of the four points in two previous games with the Sabres and there was concern that Buffalo would suffer a letdown after Tuesday night's emotional 5-3 victory over Quebec.

"At the meeting this morning we got them concentrating and they stayed that way," Lever said.

Audette got the Sabres off fast with his first goal at 0:54. It was set up by defenseman Richard Smehlik, who carried deep into the Senators' end, then threw the puck toward the net. Audette dug it out from under the pads of goalie Craig Billington and scored.

Dawe tipped home a rebound of a Mogilny shot from the slot at 5:15 to make it 2-0. Billington stopped Mogilny's shot, but the puck trickled behind him. Dawe and Pat LaFontaine both converged on it and Dawe got there first.

The Sabres scored three times in the second, thanks to a foolish penalty by Troy Mallette of the Senators. Mallette received two high-sticking minors from referee Dave Jackson after his elbow to the face of Buffalo's Peter Ambroziak at center ice. Mallette drew blood and a five-minute elbowing major. An automatic game misconduct seemed the proper call, but Jackson ruled otherwise.

Mallette's penalty took the Senators out of the game for good. Buffalo cashed in with goals during each of the penalties. First, Mogilny set up LaFontaine with a goal-mouth pass for Pat's fifth of the season at 5:37. Then Audette scored with the rebound of Doug Bodger's shot from the point at 7:09. Dawe got his fifth at 15:21, again on a direct feed from Mogilny.

In the third period, Bob Sweeney set up Yuri Khmylev for a short-handed goal before Audette got his third with Buffalo skating five against three. The Sabres were 3 of 5 on the power play and their penalty-killers stopped the Senators on both of their opportunities.

Dawe has three goals in the last two games as the left wing on the line with LaFontaine and Mogilny. Khmylev has goals in each of his last two games, and Sweeney registered only his second assist and third point of the season.

"That was encouraging, to see Jason Dawe and Yuri Khmylev scoring. Those are two key guys in our lineup and they had been struggling," Tortorella said. "Getting a guy like Sweeney going and the other two guys going is going to help our club."

Hasek faced a lot of shots, 35, but not a lot of tough chances as he lowered his goals-against average to 1.86. It was the second most one-sided of the 79 regular-season shutouts in Sabres history. Buffalo's Don Edwards blanked Pittsburgh, 9-0, in 1980.

After a string of seven one-goal or tie games early in the season when the Sabres always seemed involved in a 2-1 game, Hasek admitted he enjoyed playing with a lead for a change.

"It's a lot different game. You can get more comfortable and there's less pressure, but you still have to stay focused for 60 minutes," Hasek said.

It was Hasek's 10th regular-season shutout as a Sabre and the 11th of his career. He had seven regular-season shutouts last year in addition to two in the playoffs.

The loss was the sixth in a row for coach Rick Bowness's Ottawa team, but the Senators are a long way off the franchise record of 14 in a row set in 1992-93.

The Sabres visit the New York Islanders Saturday afternoon.

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