The resurgent Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues are for real.
Just ask the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Chicago, trying to advance to the playoffs for only the second time in 11 years, beat Tampa Bay 5-1 on Wednesday night to remain tied with St. Louis for second place in the Central Division - just six points behind Western Conference-leading Detroit.
The Blues had a big road win, rallying to beat Buffalo 4-3.
In Chicago, Nikolai Khabibulin made 21 saves in his first game against the Lightning since leaving Tampa Bay as a free agent in August 2005, and Martin Havlat scored two goals in his first game back from a shoulder injury.
"These guys are very explosive," Khabibulin said. "It's always kind of nice to beat your old team. Unfortunately, they don't give extra points for that."
Havlat missed 22 games after injuring his right shoulder in the opener at Minnesota. He opted to rehab the shoulder without having surgery.
"I just wanted to be helpful," Havlat said. "I know at the beginning. I'm not going to feel great. I need to get my legs back. At the end I was getting tired."
Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews also scored to help Chicago extend its home winning streak to four games. Patrick Kane, the NHL's rookie scoring leader, had three assists, and Khabibulin added two assists.
Nick Tarnasky scored a power-play goal for Tampa Bay.
In other NHL games Wednesday night, it was: the New York Islanders 3, Ottawa 2 in a shootout; New Jersey 4, Dallas 2; Minnesota 3, Phoenix 1; Florida 2, Washington 1 in a shootout; Colorado 4, Edmonton 2; Philadelphia 3, Carolina 1; and Los Angeles 3, San Jose 2 in a shootout.
In Buffalo, Brad Boyes broke a tie with 58 seconds left, and Manny Legace made 20 saves for St. Louis. The Blues have won three straight and seven of eight.
"We dominated in the second and third," Legace said. "Our guys were phenomenal."
Mike Johnson and Paul Kariya each had a goal and assist, Martin Rucinsky also scored, and Boyes added an assist. Jason Pominville, Ales Kotalik and Andrej Sekera scored for Buffalo. The loss snapped the Sabres' winning streak at five.
The Sabres are winless in their past 11 games against St. Louis - including eight loses in regulation - and haven't beaten the Blues at home in more than 12 years.
"We didn't look like ourselves, but St. Louis is a tough team to play against," goalie Ryan Miller said. "We should have known they were going to come hard."
At Uniondale, N.Y., Mike Sillinger scored in the third period and added the shootout winner to help New York snap an eight-game losing streak against Ottawa.
Rick DiPietro sealed New York's first shootout win of the season when he gloved Dean McAmmond's drive in the sixth round of the tiebreaker.
Josef Vasicek also scored in regulation for New York.
Andrej Meszaros scored twice for Ottawa. After racing to a 15-2 mark, Ottawa is 1-3-2 in its past six and has dropped four straight.
At Newark, N.J., Dainius Zubrus scored with 9:03 to play to help New Jersey win its fifth straight and end Dallas' winning streak at six.
David Clarkson and Brian Gionta also scored, and the Devils overcame two early miscues by goalie Martin Brodeur to prevent the Stars from matching their franchise record for consecutive wins. Zach Parise added an empty-net goal.
Stu Barnes and Jussi Jokinen scored for Dallas.
At St. Paul, Minn., Marian Gaborik scored his fourth goal in four games and Minnesota beat Phoenix, handing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov his first loss in five games with the Coyotes after being claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Nov. 17.
James Sheppard and Stephane Veilleux also scored for the Wild, and Niklas Backstrom stopped 21 shots for Minnesota. Radim Vrbata scored for Phoenix.
At Washington, Tomas Vokoun was superb in a long shootout after stopping 32 shots in regulation, leading Florida to its fourth straight victory.
Stephen Weiss beat Olie Kolzig in the 11th round of the shootout, and Vokoun stopped defenseman Brian Pothier to end the game.
Chris Clark scored in regulation for Washington, and Richard Zednik countered for Florida. Capitals star Alex Ovechkin's points streak ended at nine games.
At San Jose, Calif., Patrick O'Sullivan and Anze Kopitar followed up their regulation goals with shootout scores, and Los Angeles won for the third time in San Jose this season.
Dustin Brown scored the winning shootout goal, and Jason LaBarbera stopped 35 shots for the Kings, who have won just two of their past eight games - both at the Shark Tank in the past five days. Craig Rivet and Joe Thornton had regulation goals for San Jose.
At Denver, Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic each had a goal and two assists, and Wojtek Wolski and Brett Clark added goals for Colorado, 4-0 against Edmonton this season and 8-1-1 in its past 10 games against the Oilers.
Raffi Torres and Shawn Horcoff had third-period goals for Edmonton.
At Raleigh, N.C., Mike Knuble had a goal and two assists, and Martin Biron made 40 saves for Philadelphia in its second win in Carolina in a week.
Derian Hatcher and Kimmo Timonen added goals. Cory Stillman scored for Carolina.