BUFFALO, N.Y. - Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis scored 1:50 apart in the second period and the Buffalo Sabres opened ground in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race with an 8-2 rout of the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night.
Rob Niedermayer scored twice and Ryan Miller (30-21-7) made 28 saves—and stopped Evander Kane's penalty shot—to become the eighth NHL goalie with six consecutive 30-win seasons. Mark Mancari had a goal and two assists, and Tyler Myers had three assists for eighth-place Buffalo, which moved two points ahead of idle Carolina.
Alexander Burmistrov and Chris Thorburn scored for the Thrashers, who dropped six points behind the Sabres with three weeks left in the season.
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Toronto 5, Boston 2; Colorado 3, Edmonton 2 (SO); Ottawa 3, Tampa Bay 2; Philadelphia 3, Dallas 2 (SO); Blue Jackets 5, Wild 4 (OT); N.Y. Islanders 4, Florida 3; Nashville 3, Detroit 1; San Jose 5, St. Louis 3; and Anaheim 2, Los Angeles 1 (OT).
DALLAS (AP)—Ville Leino scored in the sixth round of the shootout and Philadelphia clinched a playoff spot by beating Dallas.
Claude Giroux had a goal in the second round for the Flyers, but Mike Ribeiro tied it in the third round with a nifty hesitation move.
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards scored goals in regulation and Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves for the Flyers. Philadelphia, with 96 points, broke a tie with the Washington Capitals atop the Eastern Conference.
Defencemen Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas scored in regulation and Kari Lehtonen stopped 28 shots for the Stars, 2-2-2 in a season-high, seven-game homestand. Lehtonen fell to 0-10-2 against the Flyers.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—Antoine Vermette scored at 4:26 of overtime, lifting Columbus over Minnesota.
Rick Nash broke out of a slump with two goals and two assists for Columbus, his first goals since Feb. 22, a span of 11 games that matched his career-high drought. Kris Russell and Jan Hejda also scored for Columbus. Mathieu Garon had 32 saves.
The Wild rallied from a 4-2 deficit with five minutes left in the third period on goals from Antti Miettinen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Brad Staubitz and Cal Clutterbuck also scored for the Wild, who have lost five straight for the second time this season.
TORONTO (AP)—Nazem Kadri scored his first NHL goal, Joey Crabb added a goal and two assists, and Toronto hammered slumping Boston.
Luke Schenn, Mike Brown and Keith Aulie also scored for the Maple Leafs. All of Toronto's offence come from players with fewer than five goals this season.
Adam McQuaid and Dan Paille had goals for Northeast Division-leading Boston, 1-3-3 in its past seven games.
Toronto kept pace with eighth-place Buffalo, four points back with nine games remaining.
OTTAWA (AP)—Jason Spezza scored goal 3:28 into overtime to cap Ottawa's comeback win over Tampa Bay.
Ryan Shannon's short-handed goal 12:27 into the third period spoiled Dwayne Roloson's shutout bid and drew Ottawa within 2-1. Nick Foligno tied it with his 12th goal at 16:05.
Curtis McElhinney stopped 34 shots in his second straight start for Ottawa and fourth in five games. McElhinney was claimed on waivers from the Lightning on Feb. 28.
Vincent Lecavalier and Dana Tyrell scored for Tampa Bay, which is on a 2-4-4 skid. Roloson made 31 saves.
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—Frans Nielsen and P.A. Parenteau scored in the shootout and rookie Michael Grabner netted his 30th goal in the New York Islanders' win at Florida.
Sergei Samsonov and Mike Santorelli were both stopped in the tiebreaker by New York's Rick DiPietro, who made his first start in six weeks after he was injured in a fight.
Micheal Haley and Parenteau also scored in regulation, and DiPietro finished with 29 saves through overtime for the Islanders, who snapped a six-game skid on the road.
Florida's David Booth was awarded a penalty shot at 28.9 seconds of overtime when Andrew MacDonald hooked him, but Booth failed on the attempt.
Rookie Evgeny Dadonov scored twice, and Stephen Weiss added a goal for the Panthers, who got 18 saves from Scott Clemmensen.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Jonathon Blum scored a power-play goal at 8:12 of the third period, and Nashville won for the fourth time in five games.
Fellow rookie Blake Geoffrion also scored and David Legwand had an empty-net goal with 28.4 seconds left. Patric Hornqvist had two assists for Nashville, which moved back into eighth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference.
Dan Cleary scored a goal for the Red Wings, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Detroit played without star forward Pavel Datsyuk, who was injured in Thursday night's win over Columbus.
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Corey Perry scored his 37th goal 1:32 into overtime, Ray Emery made 31 saves in his second straight victory and Anaheim beat Los Angeles in the 100th Freeway Faceoff.
Rookie Brandon McMillan scored in the first period for the Ducks, who gave up a tying goal with 8:56 left in regulation to Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Anaheim earned its seventh win in nine games when rookie defenceman Cam Fowler got the puck to Perry in full stride with a long pass to mid-ice. Perry beat Jonathan Quick for the All-Star forward's sixth goal in four games.
The Ducks pulled into a ninth-place tie with Calgary in the Western Conference standings with 73 points.
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Joe Pavelski had two goals and an assist and San Jose topped St. Louis but might have lost a top scorer to an injury.
San Jose jumped out to a 3-0 lead less than eight minutes in and thoroughly dominated the Blues. But there was more of a cause for concern than celebration when rookie Logan Couture had to be helped to the locker-room early in the second period with an apparent right leg injury.
Couture was unable to put any weight on his leg when he was helped off the ice after his right skate slammed into the end boards 1:04 into the second.
Torrey Mitchell, Devin Setoguchi, and Patrick Marleau also scored and Antti Niemi made 42 saves for the Sharks, who have won three straight following a three-game losing streak to move within two points of Detroit for second place in the Western Conference.
T.J. Hensick scored his first goal in more than 16 months and David Backes and Andy McDonald added third-period scores for the Blues, who had won four of six.
EDMONTON (AP)—Ryan Stoa scored the shootout winner and Colorado edged Edmonton to break a 10-game losing streak. Stoa scored the only goal of the shootout on a pretty backhand past goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
Kevin Porter and Matt Duchene scored in regulation for the Avalanche (27-36-8), who were 0-9-1 in their previous 10 games and 1-18-2 in the past 21.
Jordan Eberle and Kurtis Foster had goals for the last-place Oilers (23-39-10), who have dropped six in a row and are the only NHL team already eliminated from playoff contention.