The Montreal Canadiens would gladly take an eighth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. The Buffalo Sabres are aiming for much loftier goals.
The Sabres hope to clinch the East's top seed and take another step toward the first Presidents' Trophy in franchise history when they visit Montreal on Saturday night.
Chris Drury scored twice and Jason Pominville had three assists to spark Buffalo's five-goal first period Friday en route to a 6-4 victory over the New York Islanders. But Drury said the Sabres could have played better.
"The first period was obviously our best, and then we got pretty sloppy after that," Drury said. "But at the end of the day, it's still a `W,' and it's better than getting on the plane with a loss. ... Sometimes you win ugly."
With their fourth win in five games, the Sabres (50-20-7) moved within one victory of securing the top seed in the East and home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs. They also moved one point ahead of Detroit and two in front of idle Nashville in the race for the league's best overall record.
Buffalo became the first team to reach 50 wins - the first time it's reached that mark in back-to-back seasons. The Sabres also need just four points in their final five games to surpass last season's team record of 110.
Ryan Miller made 25 saves for his 37th victory of the season, leaving him one shy of Don Edwards' franchise record set in 1977-78. Miller is 4-1-1 with a 3.05 goals-against average against the Canadiens this season but has allowed five goals in each of his last two starts versus them.
Center Daniel Briere had two assists Friday, giving him 92 points, the most by a Buffalo player since Pat LaFontaine, Dale Hawerchuk and Alexander Mogilny each had at least 96 in 1992-93.
The Sabres had their full complement of defensemen Friday for the first time this season with the return of Toni Lydman, who missed six games with an upper-body injury. Brian Campbell and Dmitri Kalinin are the only Buffalo defensemen not to miss any games this season.
A 5-2 loss Friday at Ottawa ended a five-game win streak for Montreal (40-32-6), which is eighth in the East. The Canadiens, who are one point behind the New York Rangers and one ahead of Toronto, have four games left, the final two on the road against the Rangers and Maple Leafs.
"We have no more breathing room," forward Steve Begin said on the Canadiens' official Web site. "We have to take care of all the little details."
Sheldon Souray scored his 18th power-play goal of the season for Montreal, tying Hall of Famer Denis Potvin and Adrian Aucoin for the NHL single-season record by a defenseman. Ten of Souray's 13 goals scored at the Bell Centre this season have come with the man advantage.
Rookie Jaroslav Halak, who has never faced the Sabres, turned away 32 shots in his sixth straight start. He had won his previous four games, allowing eight goals.
The Sabres are 4-2-1 against the Canadiens this season, winning two of three games on the road. Thomas Vanek leads Buffalo in scoring against Montreal with three goals and four assists.