Mired in their worst slump in nearly 20 years, the Detroit Red Wings were determined to end the misery.
Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula each had a goal and assist, and Dominik Hasek made 22 saves against his former team in Detroit's 4-2 win over the Sabres in Buffalo last night.
It may have been only the second win the past 12 games (2-8-2) for the Red Wings, but it felt like a playoff victory for a struggling team that came in enduring its worst stretch since going 0-9-3 from Oct. 21-Nov. 16, 1989.
"We were waiting for a game like this," Hasek said. "We weren't playing bad, we just couldn't score the goals. Today, we finally scored a few goals and played well defensively. Overall, I think Buffalo didn't have too many chances."
Dallas Drake and Kirk Maltby also scored for the Red Wings, who snapped a four-game losing streak and pulled 5 points ahead of Dallas for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Rookie Patrick Kaleta and Jason Pominville scored for the Sabres, who lost for the fourth time in five games (1-3-1).
Rangers 5, Flyers 4 - Coming on in relief of ineffective Henrik Lundqvist, Steve Valiquette stopped 17 of 18 shots through overtime and was perfect in the shootout for host New York.
After Jeff Carter's second goal of the game got the Flyers even at 4 with 8:11 left in regulation, Brendan Shanahan and Nigel Dawes scored in the shootout. Valiquette, who has five wins this season including a pair of shutouts over Philadelphia, stopped defenseman Kimmo Timonen in the first round of the tiebreaker and kept out Carter's drive after it hit the left post.
That snapped Philadelphia's three-game winning streak and extended the Rangers' surge to 7-0-2.
Philadelphia's Antero Niittymaki left after Christian Backman's first goal with the Rangers put New York ahead, 4-3, 1:51 into the second. Martin Biron stopped all 21 shots he faced before the shootout and had his three-game winning streak snapped.
Penguins 3, Thrashers 2 - Rookie defenseman Kris Letang had the only goal in the shootout and host Pittsburgh rallied after giving away a two-goal lead and extended Atlanta's losing streak to seven.
Marc-Andre Fleury, making his first start in goal since badly spraining an ankle Dec. 6, turned aside 31 shots and didn't allow former teammate Erik Christensen, Eric Perrin, or Ilya Kovalchuk to get the puck past him in the shootout.
It wasn't much of a homecoming for former Penguins forwards Mark Recchi, Colby Armstrong, and Christensen, who began the game on a line together and were on the ice for Ryan Malone's goal 50 seconds into the game. Recchi joined the Thrashers in early December after being let go by Pittsburgh, and Christensen and Armstrong were traded last Tuesday in the Marian Hossa deal.
Panthers 1, Islanders 0 - Host New York fired 53 shots at Florida's Craig Anderson, including a franchise-high 29 in the second period. Anderson stopped them all.
The backup goalie earned his first shutout of the season and made David Booth's first period goal stand up in Florida's victory.
"A lot went untold there," Anderson said after being saluted by his teammates with a Superman-style cape and a shaving cream pie-in-the-face. "A lot of guys were blocking shots, a lot of guys were collapsing, putting their faces on the line."
Blackhawks 4, Canucks 1 - Patrick Kane, the NHL's first overall draft pick in 2007, had two goals and an assist to lead host Chicago past Vancouver.
Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp also scored for Chicago, which is 7-3-0 in its last 10 games.
Although depleted by injuries - six Blackhawks regulars sat out - Chicago dominated the Canucks with aggressive play. Chicago managed 28 shots, while holding Vancouver to a season-low 10.
The Blackhawks are 6 points out of eighth place and the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Canucks are in a three-way tie for seventh in the West.
Oilers 4, Blue Jackets 3 - Ales Hemsky scored the only goal of the shootout as host Edmonton extended its NHL record for shootout wins in a season to 14 and won its fourth consecutive game.
Hemsky, the last of Edmonton's shooters in the shootout, beat Pascal Leclaire with a forehand and Mathieu Garon made it stand with a left pad save on Gilbert Brule to end the game.
Wild 2, Kings 1 - Martin Skoula scored with 1:15 left in overtime and host Minnesota gained sole possession of the Northwest Division lead with a victory over Los Angeles.
Marian Gaborik also scored for Minnesota, which moved 2 points ahead of idle Calgary atop the Northwest, and 3 points ahead of Vancouver and Colorado.