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Hull -- he shoots, he scores, he can also deliver a mean lick

DALLAS -- Brett Hull has long been of the NHL's most productive -- and admittedly selfish -- players.

He has changed his game in Dallas, transforming from a one-dimensional offensive player to one who delivers hits as well as goals. But on a night the Stars desperately needed him to score, he did.Hull's game-winning goal at 17:10 of the third period in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against Buffalo came on a trademark Hull play -- a slap shot from the right circle that rivaled Randy Johnson's fastball in speed.

It was a goal the Stars had to have in a game they had to win. Take a 2-0 deficit into Buffalo, and they might not have returned to Dallas this season.

"It was like a Game 7 for us," Hull said Thursday night.

And Hull was like the 86-goal scorer he once was for St. Louis.

"Most of my shots when I was in St. Louis for all of those years, I just buried my head and shot it hard," Hull said. "The harder you shoot it, you've got more of a chance of it going in. I guess it's like swinging a golf club; you've got more of a chance of it going into the woods, too."

Hull joined father Bobby and uncle Dennis in scoring a game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals.

For the record, two of Bobby Hull's 11 career playoff goals were game-winners; one of Dennis Hull's six goals was.

A GOAL A DECADE: He got his playoff goal for the 1980s. Now, Craig Ludwig of the Dallas Stars has one for the 1990s, too.

Ludwig's third-period goal temporarily put Dallas ahead 2-1 and set an NHL record for the longest gap between playoff goals. His last previous playoff goal came in 1988 for Montreal.

Johnny Bucyk, Gordie Howe and Harry Howell shared the record of 10 years between goals.

"He's got one for the '90s. That's it. He's done," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Someone else is going to have to come in and play."

PLAYING WITH PASSION: It has taken only two games for the underdog Sabres to win the Stars' respect, and vice versa.

"I have said before, these are the two best teams in the NHL as far as defending with passion," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We are sitting there after two periods with fewer than 15 shots on goal and they have 20 blocked shots. That isn't by accident. They defend with unbelievable passion."

SWEEPLESS: So much for a sweep. These finals already are assured of being the first since 1994 that won't end in a sweep. Detroit in 1998 and 1997, Colorado in 1996 and New Jersey in 1995 all won in four games.

Don't think NHL commissioner Gary Bettman isn't pleased.

Before the series began, he said another sweep would be his "worst nightmare," partly because it would significantly reduce TV viewership.

ADVANTAGE, DALLAS: Buffalo got the split in Dallas it wanted. But it didn't win the game that, at least statistically, most often decides Stanley Cup finals.

Teams winning Game 2 have gone on to win the championship in 26 of the past 28 seasons. The last Stanley Cup winner that didn't win Game 2 was Calgary in 1989 against Montreal.

Since the best-of-7 format began in 1939, 46 of the 60 clubs winning Game 2 have won the Stanley Cup.

Also, gaining a road split in the first two games hasn't proven to be the advantage that visiting coaches often claim it is. Of the 18 teams that have gained a split on the road to start the series, only seven have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

No matter, the Sabres' Jay McKee said, "To split in Dallas and go back home, we're comfortable with that."

PRESIDENTIAL DELAY OF GAME: The start of the game was delayed about 15 minutes so Fox could broadcast President Clinton's address on Kosovo. But the finish still was about a half-hour earlier than Tuesday night's overtime game, which ended just before midnight EDT.