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Spinning their wheels; Buffalo can't close early deficit

A winning streak remains a dream. After yet another loss by the Sabres, they are assured of going at least seven weeks without back-to-back victories.

Buffalo, coming off an impressive 4-2 win over Washington, failed to follow it up Wednesday night. New Jersey scored the opening three goals and held off the Sabres, 3-1, in Prudential Center.

The Sabres lost for the fourth time in five games and fell to 7-11-3 since their last winning streak. Their three-game run ended with a 6-2 shellacking in Boston on Nov. 12. The Sabres visit Washington on Friday before hosting Ottawa on Saturday, which will be seven weeks after the setback against the Bruins.

"Obviously, we know we've got to put a streak together, but you get down, 3-0, it's tough to win games," Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek said. "Overall, I thought we played good, but we're not in a position where good is going to win games."

The game changed during an 87-second span early in the second period.

Luke Adam tipped home a point shot by Brayden McNabb, seemingly cutting the Sabres' deficit to 2-1 with 5:28 gone. A video review, however, determined Adam deflected the puck with a high stick. The goal was disallowed.

"I thought I got it on the way down," Adam said. "Usually, you know when it's a high stick. I thought it was a goal for sure, but obviously when it's inconclusive on the video, the call on the ice stands."

Less than a minute and a half later, the Devils scored on a deflection of their own to go up by three goals. Zach Parise got his stick on Mark Fayne's slap shot, the puck zipping past Ryan Miller before he even had a chance to react with 6:55 off the clock.

"It would have been 2-1 there, then it's 3-0," Adam said. "Big momentum swing."

The Sabres lost to the Devils for the second time this season. Once again, Martin Brodeur earned the victory, making 22 saves.

Brodeur owned the first period. The goaltender stopped all seven shots by the Sabres, including a point-blank redirect by Jason Pominville. Brodeur also had a hand in giving the Devils their 1-0 lead.

The goaltender got the puck and quickly hit Patrik Elias with a pass at center ice to start a Devils rush. Elias dropped the puck to Petr Sykora, who tried a give-and-go pass to the driving Elias.

Instead, the puck clipped the skate of defenseman Robyn Regehr and slowly fluttered between the legs of Miller with 9:52 gone.

"The only chance they got in the first period was the goal that went in, and they got a break on it," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Sykora scored again just 1:26 into the second. Dainius Zubrus pressured Sabres defensemen Regehr and Andrej Sekera behind the Buffalo net, forcing Sekera to cough up the puck. Elias collected it and spotted Sykora alone in front for a one-timer.

Sekera's worst moment came later. He suffered an upper-body injury that will keep him out weeks while getting boarded by Eric Boulton.

Vanek scored midway through the second to cut the Sabres' deficit to 3-1. The power-play goal was just the third allowed in 59 chances at home for the Devils. They resumed their NHL-best penalty killing after that, stopping the Sabres' next two chances as New Jersey fans among the announced crowd of 17,625 chanted, "Kill, kill, kill."

All the Sabres heard at the end was the familiar echo of another loss.

"We were an opportunity or two away from a win," Adam said. "It's a fine line. We've just got to find ways."

email: jvogl@buffnews.com

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Devils 3, Sabres 1

SLAP SHOTS: Sabres lose for the fourth time in five games as Devils open 3-0 lead. ... Sabres have not won consecutive games since Nov. 11. ... Vanek scores on power play against NHL's best penalty-kill unit.

FAST FACT: Thomas Vanek has points in his last five games against New Jersey, scoring four times and adding two assists.

NEXT: at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. Friday, in Verizon Center.