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Mancari exhales after scoring a goal

Mark Mancari is a scoring machine in the American Hockey League. He's been mostly a non-factor in the NHL. Same story this year. A career-high 32 goals and 64 points in Portland. No goals and one point in his first nine games with the Sabres.

That changed Saturday as Mancari finally had a breakout game in the Sabres' 8-2 romp past the Atlanta Thrashers. He had to be the most relieved guy in HSBC Arena when he tipped home Tyler Myers shot from the point in the first period for his first goal of the season and that eventually led to his first three-point game in the NHL.

When Mancari tipped home Myers' shot to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead at 11:56 of the first period, he pumped his fist and dropped to one knee in celebration after the puck found the net.

"That was definitely a huge sigh of relief. I've been trying really hard to get that off my back," Mancari said. "I'm getting comfortable here and a lot of it has to go with [Paul] Gaustad and [Nathan] Gerbe. There's great linemates to play with and it makes a world of difference for me."

It was Mancari's third NHL goal over 26 games with the Sabres over parts of four seasons. He's averaged 25.2 in the minors over the last six years -- and is still third in the AHL in scoring with his 64 points in 56 games.

He also assisted on Gerbe's goal in the second period and Brad Boyes' tally in the third.

"Until you get that goal, you're gripping your stick and thinking, 'When is it going to come? When is it going to come?' " Mancari said. "It finally did and after that other bounces came."

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Former Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek got a roaring standing ovation as he came to center ice for a ceremonial faceoff. Hasek was in town as his Hasek's Heroes charity was involved with a hockey skills weekend with NHL legend Willie O'Ree, who broke the game's color barrier in the 1950s with Boston.

"It was a great opportunity for me to come here and be part of this weekend," Hasek said during a pregame news conference. " It was fun yesterday to drive on [Route] 33 downtown and today to walk into the building. It was a special feeling."

At age 46, Hasek led Russia's Kontinental Hockey League with seven shutouts this season but his Spartak Moscow team lost in the first round of the KHL playoffs. Hasek said he wants to play one more year in Russia but reiterated he's done with the NHL, which he left after the 2007-08 season.

"My season was good. I don't want to say great," said Hasek, who went 23-18-3 with a 2.45 goals-against.

Hasek played here from 1992-2001 and was voted the No. 1 Sabre in franchise history in a Buffalo News poll last fall.

"A friend told me about it today and it's definitely an honor," he said. "My feeling was I would be the top two. Gil Perreault did such a great job and I saw him play as a kid and saw his tapes so that's definitely an honor for me to be in this position with so many players who played before me and with me. I appreciate it."

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The Sabres scratched Shaone Morrisonn and returned Chris Butler to the lineup on defense. Tyler Myers had three assists, a plus-three rating and led the Sabres in ice time at 23:35. Rob Niedermayer's two-goal game was his first since March 31, 2009 for Anaheim at Edmonton. He had not scored at home as a Sabre. The Sabres' last eight-goal game was a 10-2 win Jan. 27, 2009 at Edmonton.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com