1/23/97 -- 2:54 AM


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Jason Dawe scored early and late, and the Buffalo Sabres scored often.

Dawe scored the first and last goals in the Buffalo Sabres' 6-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

The key for the Sabres this year has been balance, which came through against the Canadiens. Five players scored as Buffalo pulled within two points of first-place Pittsburgh in the Northeast Division.

``That's been big to our success,'' Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. ``One night Derek Plante's line will be going, and the next night it's Brian Holzinger's line, the next night Mike Peca's line. It's been a really big boost for us.''

Plante, Holzinger, Peca and Matthew Barnaby also scored for the Sabres. Dominik Hasek, who stopped 32 shots Wednesday, made 51 straight saves before Vincent Damphousse scored in the second period for Montreal.

With center Pat LaFontaine sidelined indefinitely with complications related to a concussion, Buffalo does not have a scorer among the league's top 25. It has 10 players who are within 13 points of Plante, who leads the team with 34 points - 46 less than NHL scoring leader Mario Lemieux.

``You look at other team's rosters and they have two 50-point guys and a 20-point guy,'' Dawe said. ``Everybody in this locker room is chipping in. That's why every game we go into, we're confident in ourselves.''

The Sabres have won four straight and are 7-0-1 in their last eight home games. They have 12 of their next 14 games at Marine Midland Arena, where they have not lost since Dec. 13.

``We just want to keep it going,'' Barnaby said. ``As long as we keep winning, you aren't going to hear too many people complaining around here.''

Hasek stopped two breakaways early in the second period before Plante and Holzinger scored 59 seconds apart for a 3-0 lead.

Plante scored while on his stomach, getting his 21st on a backhander after Alexei Zhitnik sent the puck toward the net. Holzinger added his 15th at 8:16 when he beat defenseman Brad Brown to a puck in the crease and banged in Donald Audette's rebound.

``It's always frustrating to play these guys,'' said Canadiens forward Martin Rucinsky, who was stopped on two breakaways and missed another opportunity. ``We know they have a young team with a good coach who likes to see them work hard. They're always in your face.''

Buffalo took a 1-0 at 2:58 of the first with its fifth shorthanded goal in six games, Dawe's 12th goal of the season.

Dawe stole the puck from Stephane Quintal at the blue line, skated into the right circle and sent a wrist shot that squirted between Jocelyn Thibault's legs.

``I was going upstairs with it, and it went through his legs,'' Dawe said. ``Any time you get those goals, you save them for sure.''

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