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SABRES BACK IN CELLAR AFTER BEING LEVELED BY HURRICANES

Twice this season, the Buffalo Sabres have tormented the Carolina Hurricanes by coming from behind late in the game for overtime victories. Saturday night, the Hurricanes got revenge.

In what ranks as one of the lowest points of their season so far, the Sabres suffered a 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes before a crowd of 8,682 in the Greensboro Coliseum.

The loss dropped the Sabres back into last place behind Carolina in the Northeast Division.

Dominik Hasek got his first night off since Nov. 13 with Steve Shields getting his first start in goal since then. Hasek had started the last 18 games in a row, including six shutouts.

"We had back-to-back games and wanted to get (Shields) a start," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've got a tough stretch coming up with a lot of games. There have been times after a game when I've regretted not getting him a start. I don't regret it (starting him) at all.

"More than anything, I thought he was nervous."

Steve Chiasson, Nelson Emerson, Curtis Leschyshyn and Kent Manderville scored in what amounted to an offensive explosion for the Canes, who had managed just 16 goals in their previous nine games, one more than the Sabres had scored in their last nine.

The loss was disappointing because it came against a slumping Carolina team that was only 1-7-1 coming in. Also, the Sabres were shut out for the first 49:56 by a third-string goalie, 30-year-old journeyman Pat Jablonski.

Jason Dawe ruined what would have been Jablonski's second career NHL shutout with his 14th goal of the season with 10:04 left in the game. It was Dawe's first goal since he scored twice in a 6-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Nov. 22.

Jablonski made 26 saves but he had a relatively easy night after the first period when he turned back 11 shots. He was the game's first star. Second star was Emerson and the third star was Manderville.

Shields, who finished with 20 saves, looked a little rusty in his most extensive game action in six weeks, but he didn't get a lot of help from the Sabres.

Jablonski had been recalled from Cleveland after backup goalie Trevor Kidd suffered a broken finger Dec. 20 against Washington.

Matthew Barnaby and Richard Smehlik assisted on Dawe's third-period goal. Any chance of the Sabres mounting a miracle comeback ended when Jason Woolley took a double-minor for high sticking just 20 seconds later.

Buffalo returns to action Monday night against the New Jersey Devils in Marine Midland Arena.

There was a lot of wide-open action in the first period, most of it in the Carolina end. However, when the period was over, the Hurricanes had the only goal, even though they were outshot, 11-5.

The Hurricanes got on the board when Chiasson scored on the power play at 3:40 with Miroslav Satan off for high-sticking.

It was a weak goal from the left circle that appeared to go in off a Buffalo defenseman while a Carolina player was in the crease. After a lengthy discussion on the phone between referee Don Koharski and the video replay official in the press box, the goal was allowed.

The Sabres had the better chances after that, particularly during a four-minute span on the power play. Half that time Buffalo skated five against three when they outshot Carolina, 5-0.

Carolina's penalty troubles began when Gary Roberts took an obvious cross-checking penalty, then picked up an additional two minutes for protesting the call.

Exactly when Roberts' first penalty expired, Carolina defenseman Adam Burt was called for high-sticking Donald Audette.

The Sabres bombarded Jablonski with five shots and there were a couple of missed shots as well. Audette fanned in front when the puck bounced on him.

After the Carolina penalties expired, Jablonski gloved Woolley's drive from the high slot that seemed headed for the upper left corner.

When the Hurricanes got a 5-on-3 opportunity in the second period, unlike the Sabres, they did not waste it.

With Darryl Shannon and Michael Peca off for minor penalties just 28 seconds apart, Emerson scored from in front. Sami Kapanen of the Canes had let a wild shot go that ricocheted off the end boards. Shields was down when Emerson lifted a 12-foot shot over him.

The rout was on after that.

With the teams skating four aside, Leschyshyn picked up the puck at center ice and beat Shields to the glove side with a slap shot from the left circle at 13:43.

Then Manderville scored with 3:21 left in the period from almost the exact spot.

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