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Buffalo Sabres 1, New York Islanders 4 FINAL

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) _ To a man, the New York Islanders felt they played their most complete game of the season.

Shawn Bates and Adrian Aucoin each had a goal and assist to help the Islanders beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Saturday night.

``It was definitely our best 60 minutes,'' Aucoin said. ``We've played great for a period here, a period there, but this was a complete effort.''

The Islanders moved two points ahead of Montreal for seventh place in the Eastern Conference, and increased their cushion over Buffalo to five points. Arron Asham and Cliff Ronning also scored for the Islanders, 6-0-2-0 in their last eight home games.

Rick DiPietro made 24 saves for his 15th victory, allowing only Dmitri Kalinin's goal.

The Sabres dropped to 8-2-1-0 in their last 11 games.

The Islanders opened the scoring at 1:23 of the first period when Asham converted on Jason Blake's nifty behind-the-back pass and sent a wrist shot from the lower left circle over Martin Biron's glove.

Bates scored his first goal in 33 games to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead at 7:46 of the second period. Off a cross-ice pass by Trent Hunter, Bates beat starter Martin Biron with a one-timer.

``It's just a great feeling to get back on the score sheet,'' Bates said. ``Mentally, it gets to you pretty bad.''

The Sabres got back into the game 1:07 seconds later on a bad clearing attempt by DiPietro. Maxim Afinogenov intercepted the puck, and quickly fed Kalinin, who fired the puck into an open net. It only took the Islanders 1:15 to restore their two-goal lead, with Aucoin's slap shot from the right point beating a screened Biron. Ronning's tip in of Aucoin's right point slap shot made it 4-1 with 37.5 seconds left in the period.

Mika Noronen (11 saves) replaced Biron to start the final period. Biron stopped 21 shots in his two periods of work.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff was looking forward to a couple of days off before the Sabres' next game Wednesday night in New Jersey.

``We've had a lot of pretty emotional games and a tough schedule,'' Ruff said. ``We're not using that as an excuse, though. We didn't generate much the whole game.''

Asked if he is now in scoreboard-watching mode, Ruff replied, ``I think we're all going to watch what happens in games from here on out. But remember, there's six or seven weeks left in the season. If you watch too much, you're going to go off the deep end. Yes, we've gotten some help, but we mostly helped ourselves.''

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