Buffalo, NY – The New York Rangers seemed to have finally found their scoring touch at a most opportune time.
Behind Brad Richards' first career hat trick, the Rangers recorded their highest scoring output of the season in an 8-4 verdict over the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center.
Richards, Carl Hagelin and Ryane Clowe all potted goals in the final 78 seconds of the first period to spur New York to its second lopsided victory in as many nights. Richards also lit the lamp early in the second as part of a five-goal outburst over a span of 2:58, the quickest for that amount in franchise history.
It came just one night after New York matched a then-season best for goals in a 6-1 home rout of Florida.
"It was a weird night, in a good way," Richards said afterward. "I'm just trying to stay with it, plug away. Sometimes the game treats you in weird ways."
Clowe and Rick Nash each finished with a goal and an assist in the critical win, which placed the Rangers two points in front of idle Winnipeg for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference and one behind the resting Islanders for seventh place. Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan also scored to support a 24-save effort from Henrik Lundqvist.
Buffalo had made a belated push for a postseason berth with a 6-2-0 stretch entering the contest, but was officially eliminated from playoff contention after having a three-game win streak halted.
Cody Hodgson, Nathan Gerbe, Drew Stafford and Mark Pysyk all tallied for the Sabres, but goaltender Ryan Miller was lifted 1:13 into the second period after permitting four goals on 14 shots
Jhonas Enroth didn't fare any better, allowing four goals on 15 chances after taking over.
The New York outburst began when Hagelin collected a pass in the neutral zone and skated hard up the left side before attempting a wraparound that bounced off the skate of Sabres defenseman Adam Pardy and slid by Miller 1:18 prior to the first intermission.
Richards scored in similar fashion just under a minute later, with his shot from the right boards deflecting off the foot of Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff and trickling through Miller's legs for a 2-0 New York lead.
A misplay by Miller in the closing moments of the period continued the Rangers' offensive onslaught, with the Sabres' netminder whiffing on a clearing attempt and the puck coming right to a charging Clowe for an easy tap-in with 3.2 seconds on the clock.
"You were putting pucks on the net and they were going in," said Clowe. "It was a wild one. I don't know if I've even ever been a part of a game with that many goals before."
The Rangers kept up the barrage during the early stages of the second period, tallying twice more within the initial two minutes of the frame.
Miller's night ended after Stralman ripped a shot from the right point over his left shoulder just 1:13 in. A mere 27 seconds later, Enroth was greeted by a long drive by John Moore that the replacement goalie partially stopped but failed to control, with Richards right on the doorstep to knock in the loose puck and increase the margin to 5-0.
"We were down 3-0 and then we came out in the second and gave them the fourth right off the bat," Sabres head coach Ron Rolston remarked. "At that point we were in tough sledding."
Nash got into the act at the 7:05 mark of the wide-open stanza, one-timing a give-and-go feed from Derek Stepan while stationed in the right circle.
Buffalo trimmed the massive deficit somewhat shortly afterward by putting up a pair of goals six seconds apart. Hodgson redirected an Ehrhoff slap shot on a Sabres' power play with 6:10 left in the middle session, and Gerbe intercepted an attempted pass by New York's Michael Del Zotto to beat Lundqvist right after the ensuing faceoff to make it a 6-2 game.
It took New York just 32 seconds to answer, as Callahan stole the puck away from Buffalo's Mike Weber and scored on a breakaway to restore a five-goal differential.
Stafford wrapped up the wild second period by placing a backhander over Lundqvist's glove following a faceoff win from Marcus Foligno with 3:41 remaining before the final break.
Richards completed the hat trick with a wrister that sailed past the outstretched glove of Enroth with 7:28 left to play, with Pysyk closing out the scoring with his first career NHL marker. The one-timer, from an Ehrhoff pass, came 40 seconds before the final horn.
The Rangers' previous club record for fastest five goals was three minutes and 22 seconds, which occurred in an 8-7 win against Edmonton on Feb. 15, 1985 ... The Blueshirts also notched their most goals in a road victory since a 10-2 result at Tampa Bay on Nov. 10, 1998 ... Prior to the game, the NHL announced it was moving the Sabres' scheduled contest at Pittsburgh from Saturday to Tuesday due to Friday's postponement of the Penguins' matchup at Boston because of the city-wide manhunt for one of the suspected bombers of Monday's Boston Marathon. The Pens-Bruins tilt will now be played Saturday afternoon ... Ehrhoff finished with two assists to extend his point streak to four games, with teammate Tyler Ennis and Stepan also registering a pair of helpers ... Rangers forward Brian Boyle missed a second straight game with a right leg injury sustained in Tuesday's 4-2 loss at Philadelphia.