After two games where most of the offence came from the defence, Vanek, Daniel Briere, and Adam Mair all scored second-period goals to earn Buffalo to a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders and a 2-1 lead in the first-round, Eastern Conference playoff series.
The Sabres, who led the NHL with 308 goals, scored six while splitting the first two games on home ice. Chris Drury, who assisted on Mair's goal, scored twice in the series-opening victory for the only goals by Buffalo forwards.
That all changed when the Sabres scored three times in a span of 7:39.
Trent Hunter and Ryan Smyth answered in the second in front of a towel-waving, sellout crowd that included NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. It wasn't enough, despite 32 saves by Rick DiPietro in his first home game in three weeks following a bout with post-concussion syndrome.