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Vanek's hat trick gives Buffalo big win

Apr 6, 2011 - 4:39 AM Buffalo, NY (Sports Network) - Thomas Vanek notched a hat trick to help the Buffalo Sabres take a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The win gives Buffalo 92 points and the team has moved into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the Rangers and a point back of the Canadiens. The Rangers had off on Tuesday while the Canadiens clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Blackhawks.

Tim Connolly had a goal and two assists and Jason Pominville added two helpers for the Sabres, who have won three of their last four. Jhonas Enroth stopped 23 shots.

"We did a good job of limiting our turnovers cause they're a team that thrives off of that," said Connolly. "We're playing as a group and we're playing as a team out there and are moving things in the right direction."

Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone each had a goal for the Lightning, who came into the contest with a five-game winning streak. Dwayne Roloson stopped 20 shots in the loss.

"We were missing the net and didn't shoot when we were in the offensive zone so it's our fault that we lost," said Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher. "And it helps them that they have a goaltender that is playing well."

Tampa Bay currently sits in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference and trails Pittsburgh, which won on Tuesday, by three points. The Lightning will finish the season in either the fourth or fifth spot.

Malone scored off a tip in of a Mike Lundin right point shot at the 13:53 mark of the first, but Vanek got his first of the night three minutes later on the power play off a tip of a Pominville one-timer.

Vanek gave his team a 2-1 lead eight minutes into the second went he lifted in a backhand from in front of the net.

Connolly made it a 3-1 contest with 6:14 left in the middle frame on a rush play as he snapped a wrister into the net from the right circle for his 13th goal of the season.

Tampa made it a one-goal game just 17 seconds into the third off a Buffalo turnover in its own end that saw Lecavalier finish the play with a wrister from the high slot.

Buffalo, though, was able to keep from giving up the equalizer and Vanek recorded his first hat trick of the season and seventh of his career in the final moments of the contest.

Game Notes

Buffalo has a home game against Philly on Friday and a road game in Columbus on Saturday to conclude its regular season...The Lightning play at home versus Florida on Friday and in Carolina on Saturday before the start of the playoffs...These teams split the four-game series this season...Vanek has 31 goals on the season.