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Wings deal blow to Sabres' playoff hopes

by Brian Hunter
Normally it's the teams already out of the postseason picture who are considered "spoilers." But for the second day in a row, the Detroit Red Wings were the ones doing the spoiling, as they pushed another team closer to playoff elimination.

Marian Hossa assisted on Brad Stuart's power-play goal late in the second period and added a pair of goals in the third Monday as the Wings beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 at HSBC Arena, dealing them a major blow in their attempt to gain ground in the Eastern Conference.

''These are difficult games,'' Detroit goalie Chris Osgood said. ''Everybody we seem to be playing of late seems to be on the brink of making it or fighting somebody else for a playoff spot. It's good games for us going into the playoffs. It gets us as playoff-ready as possible.''

Nicklas Lidstrom capped the scoring with an empty-net goal and Osgood made 32 saves for his 389th career victory, tying former teammate Dominik Hasek for 10th on the all-time list. Osgood also got the win Sunday when Detroit edged Minnesota, another team in desperate need of points.

''I don't know a lot of things, but I knew that today that I could tie Dom here, so that's pretty cool,'' said Osgood, who accomplished the feat in a town where Hasek played most of his career. ''It's a great honor for me to be mentioned with a goalie of his stature. To do it here is a little more special.''

Paul Gaustad scored midway through the third for the Sabres, who lost a second straight at home and remained 10th in the East, four points out of a playoff spot with just three games left on their schedule.

''It's tough. Until you're mathematically out of it, you can't quit. Even if you are, you can't quit,'' Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. ''We put ourselves in a tough spot.''

Hossa busted open a tight game by backhanding a loose puck past Miller 36 seconds into the third, then converting a Pavel Datsyuk feed at 9:17 for a 3-0 lead. That gave him 40 goals for the season, the third time in his career he's reached the mark.

"I've been playing with Pavel or (Henrik Zetterberg), two world-class players, so it's just fun," said Hossa, who signed a one-year contract with Detroit last summer. "I try to get open, they give me the puck and I try to just shoot the puck at the net."

The Sabres, who almost rallied from a three-goal, third-period deficit in a 3-2 loss to New Jersey on Saturday, did their best to bring the home fans back to life. Gaustad answered Hossa's second goal with one of his own 37 seconds later, scoring off a scramble in front to deny Osgood's bid for his 50th career shutout.

But that was all the offense they could muster, and after Miller was pulled for a sixth attacker Lidstrom hit the open net with 37 seconds remaining. The two points secured by Detroit pulled it to within four of San Jose for the Western Conference lead. Each team has three regular-season games to play.

''We seem to have found our way,'' Wings coach Mike Babcock said. ''We've got a proud group. I think they said, 'Enough's enough, let's get playing again.'"

Buffalo came out strong and enjoyed a 14-10 advantage in shots in the first period, but Osgood held them off and the game stayed scoreless deep into the second.

''We played patient and we played well,'' Gaustad said. ''They took advantage of their chances and we didn't. It's tough to get down to that team.''

Detroit finally broke through on the power play after Maxim Afinogenov was sent off for holding. With time ticking down in the man advantage, Stuart took a shot that went through a crowd in front and under the arm of Miller, who was being screened by Tomas Holmstrom.

Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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