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Sabres rip Caps, vault into 8th in Eastern Conference

Mar 28, 2012 - 3:30 AM
Washington, DC (Sports Network) - Drew Stafford tallied twice and Ryan Miller made 44 saves, as Buffalo moved alone into eighth place in the Eastern Conference after a 5-1 decision over Washington at Verizon Center.

Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody McCormick also lit the lamp for the Sabres, who hold a two-point edge over their Tuesday foes for the final playoff berth in the East. Both clubs have five games remaining.

Tyler Ennis added a pair of assists as Buffalo won its season-high fifth straight contest.

"Every games been a must-win for us, obviously, with this game [and] them being right with us in the standings, the stakes are a little bit higher, but we're not done yet," Stafford said of his club's climb into contention. "We're in the position we want to be in but we know the road's going to get even tougher."

Alexander Semin provided the lone offense for the Capitals, who have dropped five of their last seven.

Braden Holtby was pulled after giving up three goals on 18 shots in less than 23 minutes. Michal Neuvirth finished by allowing a pair of scores on 13 shots.

McCormick scored off a goalmouth scramble at the 8:45 mark of the first, then Stafford alertly followed up a Tyler Myers chance by stuffing home the puck at the left post inside of two-minutes left in the first.

Vanek made it 3-0 at 2:31 of the second, trailing Pominville's shot and slipping the rebound home inside the left post.

That brought on Neuvirth, and the Caps showed some life at 5:07. Mathieu Perreault won a right-circle draw that was tipped back by Jason Chimera and Semin ripped one over Miller's glove.

Pominville netted a short-handed goal off a 2-on-1 rush with 2:28 left in the second, and Stafford hit the net from the left side during a 3-on-1 break for a 5-1 game just before the midway point of the third.

"It was one of those games where both teams came out and it wasn't a cat and mouse game," said Capitals head coach Dale Hunter. "It was wide open hockey game and we took the brunt of it."

Game Notes

Buffalo had won four in a row from November 4-11...The Sabres won three of four in the season series...McCormick's tally was his first since April 16, 2011 in Game 2 of the Eastern quarterfinals against Philadelphia, and his first regular-season goal since February 25, 2011 against Ottawa...Buffalo defenseman Christian Ehrhoff left the game in the first period and did not return after suffering a lower-body injury.