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Sabres 8, Capitals 5 @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Taylor Pyatt wasn't worried that he'd be stuck with a zero in the goal column all season.

Pyatt scored his first three of the season Thursday night, recording his second career hat trick, and defenseman Brian Campbell had two goals to help the Buffalo Sabres to a wild 8-5 win over the Washington Capitals.

``The one thing I've learned from my first few years in the league is that there are a lot of ups and downs in the season,'' Pyatt said. ``Sometimes you think it's never going to come, but it sure does feel good when it does happen.''

Pyatt's slow start this season has been the opposite of 2003-04. Pyatt scored seven times in Buffalo's first 24 games that season, but finished with just eight goals in 63 games.

``Hopefully I can keep things going,'' he said. ``I just have to try and ride the wave when things are going good.''

Things have certainly been improving for the Sabres, as they won their third straight at home and third in four games after dropping four straight.

The run came nearly two weeks after the team's 6-2 start.

``We have to keep going and keep pushing,'' said Campbell, who has four goals - one more than his career high.

He gave the Sabres a 6-1 lead in the second period.

``We have to get back to playing like we did in the beginning of the season, and keep working hard,'' Campbell said.

Ales Kotalik, Dmitri Kalinin and Tim Connolly also scored for the Sabres. Connolly, J.P. Dumont, Adam Mair, and Daniel Briere each added two assists.

``We talk about the depth in scoring for our club, and it was important tonight,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Rookie standout Alexander Ovechkin had a goal and an assist, and Chris Clark, Andrew Cassels, Brian Sutherby and Ben Clymer also scored for the Capitals, who lost for the fourth time in five games.

Washington fell to 1-8 on the road.

``You have to give yourself a chance to win and we didn't do that,'' Capitals captain Jeff Halpern said. ``We had a lot of defensive breakdowns and some bad reads.''

Buffalo scored on its first shot 37 seconds in as Campbell beat Brent Johnson with a drive that went between the goalie's legs.

After Clark tied it at 4:06 of the first, Buffalo broke the game open. The Sabres scored five consecutive goals in a nearly 14-minute span that bridged the first and second periods to make it 6-1.

The Capitals came back strong, scoring three straight goals in the final nine minutes of the second, including Sutherby's short-handed tally and Ovechkin's power-play goal with 55 seconds remaining.

Washington had several chances to tie it in the third. Clark and Bryan Muir both hit goal posts with drives before Pyatt scored his third of the game with 3 1/2 minutes to go to make it 7-4.

``We were hanging on for our lives,'' Campbell said. ``We're lucky it was a 60-minute game for us.''

Johnson, who came in 5-0 with a 1.38 goals-against average against the Sabres, made 19 saves in his third consecutive start in place of the injured Olaf Kolzig. Kolzig missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury.

``It wasn't Brent's fault,'' Halpern said. ``We hung him out to dry.''

Ovechkin leads NHL rookies with 15 goals, and has scored in five of his last six games.

Buffalo had a seven-minute power play in the second period when Washington's Brendan Witt was handed 27 minutes in penalties - including a game misconduct - after a brief melee that involved Thomas Vanek. The Sabres were unable to capitalize on the extended opportunity.

Buffalo's Martin Biron finished with 34 saves in his ninth straight start.

Notes: Buffalo RW Maxim Afinogenov missed his fourth game with bruised ribs. ... Washington RW Dainius Zubrus missed his second game with a groin injury. ... Sabres D Teppo Numminen has five assists in his last four games. ... Buffalo has scored a power-play goal in 12 of 13 games. Campbell and Kotalik connected with the man advantage. ... Sabres D Toni Lydman earned his 100th career point with an assist on Pyatt's second goal.

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