After vowing the Buffalo Sabres would make the playoffs, Thomas Vanek backed it up with a clutch performance.
Vanek scored three consecutive goals, including the winner 2:25 into overtime, in rallying the Sabres to a 4-3 home win over the stunned Tampa Bay Lightning last night that vaulted Buffalo into a three-way tie with the Bruins and New York Rangers for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
"We need points and we got 2 points; that's the most important part," said Vanek after the Sabres broke a two-game skid and improved to 9-2-2 in their past 13 games.
Vanek scored twice in a span of 36 seconds, forcing overtime when he stuffed in Tim Connolly's feed with 1:45 left in regulation.
Not done yet, Vanek capped a nifty tic-tac-toe play in overtime with Tampa Bay's Dan Boyle in the penalty box for hooking.
Derek Roy had a goal and an assist while Connolly had three assists for Buffalo. Brad Richards, Vaclav Prospal, and Chris Gratton scored for the Lightning.
Devils 3, Sharks 2 - John Madden and Sergei Brylin scored 1:10 apart during New Jersey's three-goal second period, and the host Devils took advantage of San Jose backup goalie Thomas Greiss, who was making his third career appearance.
During a rare night off for San Jose ironman Evgeni Nabokov, the Devils scored three goals on 10 shots in the pivotal period and won their third straight and fifth in six games (5-0-1).
Islanders 3, Capitals 2 - Mike Comrie scored the only goal of the shootout and New York pushed its winning streak to a season-high five games by beating host Washington.
Miroslav Satan and Josef Vasicek scored in regulation for the Islanders, who overcame a 2-0 deficit for the second straight game. New York's winning streak is its longest since December 2003.
Ducks 3, Avalanche 2 - Rob Niedermayer tied it midway through the third period and Corey Perry had the deciding goal in the shootout, capping host Anaheim's comeback victory over Colorado.
Blackhawks 3, Wild 0 - Nikolai Khabibulin made 38 saves for his first shutout in nearly a year and Dave Bolland scored twice to lead Chicago past visiting Minnesota.
Flames 3, Stars 2 - Jarome Iginla netted the go-ahead goal with 2:28 remaining, giving Calgary the victory in Dallas.