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Lalime steps up as Sabres strike down Chicago

BUFFALO, New York (Reuters) - Backup goal-tender Patrick Lalime made 39 saves to spark the Buffalo Sabres to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

Making just his third start of the season, Lalime was rock-solid in place of the rested Ryan Miller as the Sabres leapfrogged the Boston Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division.

"It feels great. We knew they had skilled players up front and all the guys on the ice did a great job of taking away their shot lanes," Lalime told reporters after his first win of the season.

"When you don't win for a while there's always a lot of pressure. It's nice to get one out of the way."

Thomas Vanek and Clarke MacArthur scored in the second period for Buffalo while Lalime held the Central Division-leading Blackhawks scoreless through two periods until Patrick Sharp put the visitors on the board 30 seconds into the third.

Buffalo's (18-9-2) victory came on the heels of a shutout win over the Washington Capitals and they extended that defensive streak to 139 minutes, 51 seconds before Chicago scored against them.

Having recently played two AHL games on a conditioning assignment, Lalime faced 17 shots in the first period and 16 in the third from the goal-starving Blackhawks.

"We were hoping we would get a good effort out of him and he got into the game early," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. "We needed him. Ryan (Miller) needs his team to stay fresh and sharp."

Chicago (19-8-3) has scored just 11 goals in the last seven games while winning only three times in that stretch. Blackhawks young leader Jonathan Toews, who came into the game having scored four times in his last six games, had seven shots but no points while key offseason acquisition Marian Hossa also went scoreless.

Goaltender Cristobal Huet kept Chicago close with 31 saves.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Alastair Himmer)