Sabres' overtime victory over Flyers clinches
BUFFALO, New York (Reuters) - Thomas Vanek scored a game-winning goal in overtime to ensure the Buffalo Sabres clinched an Eastern Conference playoff spot with a 4-3 comeback victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Friday.
Buffalo's Nathan Gerbe scored twice and tied the contest 3-3 with a backhand at 10:03 in the third, and Vanek converted his 32nd goal of the season at 1:16 in the extra session to send the Sabres (42-29-10) into the post season.
"The guys wanted it bad tonight," Vanek told reporters after also adding a pair of assists. "It was loud and it's exciting. We put a lot of work in, and this one feels better than the other ones."
Philadelphia, who led the Eastern Conference a week ago, lost their fifth successive game to slip into a tie in points with Pittsburgh as both teams battle for the Atlantic Division and the conference's second seed.
Pittsburgh have the tie-breaker advantage with two more wins than the Flyers (46-23-12). Both teams have one game remaining.
"It's so frustrating," said Philadelphia forward Danny Briere. "We're not looking at positioning as much as trying to come up rolling to start the playoffs."
Scott Hartnell, Kris Versteeg and Briere all scored for the Flyers who took a 3-2 lead midway through the second.
Briere notched his 33rd goal of the season as he returned from a two-game absence because of injury.
Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller also played for the first time since March 29 when he replaced netminder Jhonas Enroth to start the third and stopped all eight shots he faced.
Jason Pominville also scored for the Sabres, who got two assists from Vanek.
Buffalo is tied with Montreal for sixth in the East in points but are seeded seventh with one game remaining.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)