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Sabres inch closer to a clinch

Linesmen separate Devil Cam Janssen and Flyer Riley Cote after a fight in the first. Linesmen separate Devil Cam Janssen and Flyer Riley Cote after a fight in the first. (BILL KOSTROUN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Chris Drury scored twice, sparking Buffalo's five-goal first period in a 6-4 win over the visiting New York Islanders last night -- inching the Sabres to within a win of clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford had a goal and an assist each for Buffalo in a game the Islanders made close by scoring three times in the final period. Jason Pominville added three assists in helping the Sabres (50-20-7) become the first team to reach the 50-win plateau this season and gain sole possession of first place in the NHL standings.

With 107 points, Buffalo moved 1 point ahead of Detroit in the league race, following the Red Wings' 4-3 shootout loss to Dallas.

Viktor Kozlov scored twice, including a goal in the final minute, and Tom Poti and Jason Blake added a goal each for the injury-depleted Islanders (36-29-12), who dropped to 2-5-2 in their past nine. They're struggling to remain in the playoff hunt entering the final week of the season.

The Islanders, who have five games left, remain tied with Carolina for 10th in the East in a tightly contested race among six teams separated by 4 points vying for the final three playoff spots.

Devils 3, Flyers 1 -- Mike Rupp and Travis Zajac scored late in the second period to lead host New Jersey over Philadelphia.

Jay Pandolfo added an empty-net goal with 15.6 seconds remaining, and Martin Brodeur made 14 saves to earn his 45th win.

The victory ended the Devils' five-game losing streak at home and moved New Jersey into a tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Atlantic Division. The Penguins and Devils each have 100 points with four games to play.

Senators 5, Canadiens 2 -- Dany Heatley scored his 47th goal and Mike Fisher added a pair of goals as host Ottawa reached 100 points with a win over Montreal.

Fisher, Jason Spezza, and Mike Comrie scored in the first period to help Ottawa reach 100 points for the fourth straight season.

Fisher added his second of the game in the third before Heatley scored into an empty net.

Montreal's Sheldon Souray scored his 18th power-play goal of the season in the first .

Panthers 3, Capitals 2 -- Martin Gelinas scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, leading host Florida over Washington.

Gregory Campbell also scored and Ed Belfour made 30 saves for the Panthers, who have won five straight.

Jakub Klepis and Chris Clark scored goals for the Capitals, who have lost four of five. Brent Johnson stopped 32 shots, but Washington lost to Florida in overtime for the first time.

Sharks 4, Coyotes 2 -- Patrick Rissmiller had a goal and an assist, Jonathan Cheechoo added a goal, and San Jose kept pace in the tight Pacific Division race with its fifth straight home victory.

Defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Scott Hannan also scored as San Jose earned its 100th point of the season with its eighth victory in 10 games. Evgeni Nabokov made 25 saves, and Joe Thornton set up Cheechoo's seventh goal in five games with his NHL-leading 84th assist.

Stars 4, Red Wings 3 -- Sergei Zubov scored the only goal of the shootout to lift visiting Dallas to a comeback victory over Detroit.

Dallas, which improved its points streak to six straight games, scored three goals in 6:17 to tie the game at 3 in the third period and send it into overtime.

Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, and Philippe Boucher scored for Dallas in regulation.

Blackhawks 3, Blue Jackets 1 -- Martin Havlat ended a 13-game goal drought and added an assist as host Chicago defeated Columbus to snap a six-game losing skid.

Lightning 4, Hurricanes 2 -- Vincent Lecavalier scored his NHL-leading 50th goal and added two assists to lead Tampa Bay over Carolina in Raleigh, N.C.