It may not be too late for the Buffalo Sabres, whose three-game winning streak has them unexpectedly thinking about making the playoffs.
The Winnipeg Jets are doing the same after finally stopping a long losing streak that has threatened to sink their season.
The Sabres look to continue their roll and end a four-game skid against the Jets as they visit Winnipeg on Tuesday night in a crucial matchup for both teams.
Though Buffalo (16-17-6) appeared headed for a second straight season without a playoff appearance after a four-game losing streak - and the trading away of top players Jason Pominville, Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold before the deadline - the Sabres are surprisingly making a late push. The three consecutive victories have them in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, just four points out of eighth.
The Sabres defeated New Jersey 3-2 in a shootout Sunday, picking up the critical extra point when the Devils failed to score on any of their three attempts in the tiebreaker against Ryan Miller. Buffalo's goalie stopped 37 shots through overtime and three more in the shootout, including a victory-clinching glove save on Travis Zajac.
``We survived and got two points. Not pretty, but it's two,' Miller said. ``When you win hockey games, there's a certain belief. And we're just trying to do it one game at a time.'
Steve Ott extended his goal streak to three games for Buffalo, which won despite getting outshot 18-8 through 32 minutes and 39-26 overall.
``We're a resilient group,' said forward Patrick Kaleta, who opened the scoring in the first period and also provided several big hits. ``We're taking it game by game right now. It's a whole new season.'
The Jets are hoping a 4-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday signals the same for them. Winnipeg (19-19-2) had lost five in a row to drop out of first place in the Southeast Division before stopping the slide with a desperate effort.
``They played like they wanted it the last 40 minutes,' Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said.
The Jets scored four times in a 6:28 span of the second period after being outshot 13-4 in the first, and Ondrej Pavelec was outstanding with 30 saves after allowing 15 goals in his previous four starts. Winnipeg was outscored 21-10 during its losing streak, but got its six-game homestand off to a strong start.
``Our top players have to be hot and get our team going, and I thought we did a good job of that,' said forward Evander Kane, who snapped a five-game goal drought and added an assist. ``We had to win this game to give ourselves a shot to even make the playoffs. Our season is on the line right now.'
Andrew Ladd, tied with Kane and Blake Wheeler for the team lead with 14 goals, has gone 13 games without one. However, he's recorded a goal in each of his last three matchups with the Sabres.
Wheeler is mired in a 10-game goal drought.
Ladd and his teammates have given the Sabres plenty of problems of late, allowing one goal in each of their four consecutive victories in the series - all with Pavelec in net. Winnipeg took the first matchup of the season 2-1 at Buffalo on Feb. 29 behind Pavelec's 29 saves.
After this contest, the Jets' next three games on the homestand are against the bottom three teams in the East - division rivals Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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