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Sabres seek rare experience: scoring first

The least necessary piece of equipment on the Buffalo Sabres' caravan? Rearview mirrors.

The team is rarely ahead of anybody.

The Sabres enter tonight's game in Boston on a two-game winning streak, and they came from behind in both victories. It's not like they had a choice. The Sabres have allowed the first goal in seven of their 10 games, and they've really been playing catch-up over the past six.

Of the last 369 minutes, 15 seconds, the Sabres have held the lead for 14:01. That's only 3.8 percent of the time.

Want an even more remarkable statistic? They are 3-3 during the span.

In two of the victories -- against Tampa Bay and Toronto -- the Sabres never led until scoring the game-winner in overtime. In a victory over Florida, they finally took the lead with 11:12 to play and held on to the end.

They were never ahead in losses to Carolina and Columbus. They had Montreal looking up for just 2:49.

"We've got to start playing with the lead a little more, and I can have something to do with that," Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller said.

Miller allowed goals early against Montreal (2:34 in), Carolina (38 seconds) and Florida (1:45). The only one Miller definitely should have stopped was in Florida, and his team rallied anyway.

"We know we're capable of coming back," right wing Jason Pominville said. "We've done it in the past, we've done it this year again. It's not the way we want to play."

Added center Tim Connolly: "If you score first more than the other team, you're going to have a better chance of winning hockey games."

The statistics back him. Only two teams are under .500 when they open the scoring, Buffalo (1-2) and Toronto (1-1-2, in this category considered a .250 win percentage). Likewise, only three teams are above .500 when they give up the first goal. Detroit and Montreal are 2-1, while the Sabres are 4-3.

The Sabres are defying the odds now, but that's not likely to last.

"I think we've been coming out pretty hard a lot of the games, but we haven't been able to execute and score goals," defenseman Henrik Tallinder said.

There are myriad advantages to having the lead. The most basic is it changes the opponent's game plan.

"It makes the other team open up a little bit more and creates some more chances for us," Tallinder said. "You have to score, and there's a bigger chance that you're going to give up something else in return."

Getting the first goal would help tonight in TD Banknorth Garden. The Bruins are 5-2 when they score first and 1-2 when they don't.

Pominville just wants to see what it's like to be in the driver's seat.

"We want to be able to learn how to play with the lead," he said. "Sometimes it's hard to play with the lead. We haven't really had time to experience that this year. It seems like we're always trying to catch up on teams."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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Sabres vs. Bruins

Faceoff: 7 p.m.

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