BUFFALO, N.Y. — Thomas Vanek is off to a prolific start. And this time, the Sabres forward finally got a win to go with his production.
Vanek scored twice Thursday night, including jamming in the tying goal during a scramble in front with 2 seconds left in regulation. Then he came through in the shootout as Buffalo overcame a two-goal, third-period deficit to pull out a 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanek upped his NHL-leading total to 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists). More important, he played an integral role in ending the Sabres’ three-game skid and delivering their second win in nine games (2-6-1).
“It’s great,” Vanek said. “It means we get to not go home all frustrated tonight. Enjoy the win. Probably going to sleep better. Wake up tomorrow and go for the next one.”
It was an uplifting win for a high-priced Sabres team that’s lacked consistency and identity, and spent part of the game Thursday being booed for the second straight time at home. The first came on Sunday, when the Sabres squandered a two-goal lead in a 4-3 loss to Florida.
“We knew we had to keep grinding away at it,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We were finding ways to lose, and we found a way to win.”
Jason Pominville also scored in the shootout and Ryan Miller clinched the victory by making a left pad save to stop Brian Gionta on Montreal’s final opportunity. Tyler Ennis had a goal and two assists, while Steve Ott had a goal and an assist for Buffalo.
Tomas Plekanec scored twice for Montreal (6-3-1), which has dropped two straight — including a 2-1 loss to Boston on Wednesday. P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher also scored for the Canadiens.
Backup goalie Peter Budaj stopped 36 shots in his second start of the season.
“It’s tough,” Budaj said. “When you score four goals on the road you pretty much should win. I thought we did enough good things. We made a few mistakes and got punished for it. It’s a tough way to go, especially when you’re up two goals.”
Blackhawks 6, Coyotes 2
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Patrick Kane had two goals and an assist, and the Chicago Blackhawks remained the only NHL team without a loss in regulation this season by routing the Phoenix Coyotes 6-2 Thursday night.
Viktor Stalberg, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell each had a goal and an assist as the Blackhawks improved to 9-0-2. Dave Bolland also scored for Chicago.
Martin Hanzal and Raffi Torres scored for the Coyotes. Phoenix pulled goalie Mike Smith after Bickell scored Chicago's sixth goal with 4:52 left in the second period.
Kane's goals both came with a 5-on-3 advantage in the Blackhawks' four-goal first period. Kane has eight goals and 10 assists on the season.
Penguins 5, Capitals 2
PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby extended his points streak to six games with a goal and two assists and the Pittsburgh Penguins pounded the lifeless Washington Capitals 5-2 on Thursday night.
Evgeni Malkin also added a goal and two assists while Pascal Dupuis, James Neal and Matt Cooke scored for the Penguins, who have won five straight. Pittsburgh’s revamped power play produced three goals, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots for the Penguins, who moved atop the Eastern Conference standings by beating Washington at home in regulation for the first time in more than five years.
Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro scored for Washington but couldn’t stop the NHL’s worst team from losing for the fifth time in its last six games. Michal Neuvirth made nine saves for the Capitals before getting pulled for Braden Holtby, who promptly let in three goals in his first seven minutes on the ice.
Rangers 4, Islanders 1
NEW YORK (AP) — Teenage rookie J.T. Miller scored his first two NHL goals in his second career game to lift the Rangers to their second win in three games.
Miller, who won’t turn 20 until March, gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 1:29 in and then pushed their advantage to 3-1 in the second period with a rare power-play goal for the club. Marian Gaborik also scored, defenceman Marc Staal had two assists and Ryan McDonagh added an empty-net goal for the Rangers.
The Rangers have an eight-game winning streak over the Islanders at Madison Square Garden, outscoring them 35-11.
DEVILS 4, LIGHTNING 2
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Ilya Kovalchuk broke a tie with a short-handed goal late in the second period and New Jersey won its third straight game by beating slumping Tampa Bay.
Andy Greene and Patrik Elias iced the game with power-play goals 14 seconds apart with less than 5 minutes to play as the Devils (6-1-3) sent the Lightning to their third consecutive loss. Elias also had two assists.
Adam Henrique scored for the second game in a row and Martin Brodeur made 17 saves for New Jersey.
Nate Thompson and Matthew Carle scored for the Lightning, who have five goals during their losing streak. Tampa Bay scored 37 times in starting the season 6-1.
FLAMES 4, BLUE JACKETS 3, OT
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Alex Tanguay scored on a one-timer 1:07 into overtime to lead Calgary to victory in a battle of Western Conference cellar-dwellers.
Shortly after Columbus threatened on two shots by Fedor Tyutin, the Flames had an odd-man rush and Jarome Iginla saucered a cross-ice setup to Tanguay, who unloaded from the right dot.
Roman Cervenka, Mikael Backlund and Lee Stempniak also scored for the Flames, who won their second in a row. Jiri Hudler and T.J. Brodie each had two assists.
Mark Letestu had a goal and two assists for the first three-point game of his 145-career, while Vinny Prospal had a goal and an assist, and Matt Calvert also scored for the Blue Jackets.
PANTHERS 3, FLYERS 2, SO
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jonathon Huberdeau and Peter Mueller both scored goals in a shootout to lead Florida to the win.
Florida’s Stephen Weiss tied the game at 2 midway through the third period with his first goal of the season. Jack Skille also scored for the Panthers.
Matt Read and Jakub Voracek scored goals for the Flyers. Read continued to have his way with the Panthers. Read notched his first career hat trick last month against the Panthers and his second-period goal against Jose Theodore was his sixth goal against them in six career games. He has 28 career goals.
Read was stopped by Theodore in the shootout. Claude Giroux also came up short in the second round.
HURRICANES 3, SENATORS 2, OT
OTTAWA (AP) — Cam Ward made 45 saves and Jay Harrison scored 2:19 into overtime to rally Carolina to victory.
Harrison’s winner came off a scramble in front as he banged a loose puck past Senators goalie Craig Anderson.
Chad LaRose and Alexander Semin scored in regulation for the Hurricanes, who have won five of their last seven.
Erik Karlsson and Daniel Alfredsson replied for the Senators, while Anderson stopped 23 shots in taking the loss.
PREDATORS 3, KINGS 0
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Pekka Rinne made 32 saves for his first shutout of the season and Colin Wilson scored two goals to lead Nashville to its fourth straight win.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings have dropped three of their past four.
Gabriel Bourque opened the scoring 2:54 into the opening period and Wilson added his goals in the second period.
From the left corner, David Legwand sent a backhand pass to Bourque in the high slot, and he beat Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick with a one-timer low to the glove side.
RED WINGS 5, BLUES 1
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Petr Mrazek made 26 saves in his NHL debut and Detroit halted a two-game skid with the victory, beating St. Louis for the second time in three games this season.
The Blues dropped their third in a row, losing three successive games in regulation for the first time since Feb. 27 to March 5, 2011.
Daniel Cleary and Jakub Kindl scored first-period goals for the Red Wing,. Cory Emmerton and Damien Brunner added second-period goals 91 seconds apart and Valtteri Filppula added a goal in the third.
Alex Pietrangelo scored on a second-period power play for the Blues.
Mrazek, recalled from Grand Rapids on Monday, stopped the first 14 shots he faced. Jimmy Howard, the team’s No. 1 goalie, was given the night off after starting the first nine games of the season.
© Copyright (c)
Buffalo Sabres' Thomas Vanek (26) of Austria, and Tyler Ennis (63) celebrate Vanek's game-tying goal with seconds left against the Montreal Canadiens in the third period in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. The Sabres won 5-4 in a shootout.
Photograph by: David Duprey, AP