The Nashville Predators are back on the right side of the Western Conference playoff race. The Buffalo Sabres are about out of the chase in the East.
Dan Ellis shut out Columbus for the second time in four days, and the Predators mastered the Columbus Blue Jackets again with a 2-0 win on Friday night.
Coupled with Vancouver's 4-0 loss at Minnesota, the Predators moved into a tie with Canucks at 86 points. But Nashville is in eighth place, just above the postseason cutoff, because of one more win than Vancouver. Each club has four games remaining.
``There's not much room for error,'' Nashville forward Radek Bonk said. ``It doesn't mean anything if we don't win the other games. It's great for us. Elly was unbelievable again. He stole the game again for us.''
Jan Hlavac and Bonk scored on consecutive shots in the second period and Ellis made a career-high 43 saves.
``I hope it's not a peak, that there's still higher to go,'' Ellis said. ``I just want to try to help this team to get into the playoffs.
``We have four more games and we have to win more than Vancouver does, and we'll get ourselves a spot in the playoffs.''
That prospect doesn't look so good for the Sabres, who reached the Eastern Conference finals each of the past two years.
Buffalo blew a late lead to Montreal and lost 4-3 in overtime. That left the Sabres stuck in 10th place in the East, two spots and four points behind Boston with only four games remaining.
In squandering a 3-1, third-period lead for the second consecutive home game, Buffalo inched closer to being eliminated.
``We've got to learn,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ``There's not a lot of learning time left, but you have to learn from it. It's painful and you've got to move on.''
In other NHL games Friday night, it was Carolina 7, Atlanta 1; New Jersey 5, Philadelphia 4 in a shootout; St. Louis 4, Detroit 3 in overtime; Colorado 5, Edmonton 4 in a shootout; and San Jose 3, Anaheim 1.
Nashville is 15-0-1 in its past 16 meetings with Columbus, matching the longest current points streak for one team against another. That's 31 of a possible 32 points head-to-head the past two seasons.
Ellis, who had played one NHL game heading into this season, beat the Blue Jackets 3-0 on Tuesday night, stopping 36 shots.
``We're very confident with him the last couple of games,'' Bonk said. ``Over 40 shots and two shutouts - it's just unbelievable.''
Over in Buffalo, Tomas Plekanec rallied the Canadiens with two goals in a span of 2:16, including the tying tally with 15 seconds left. Christopher Higgins then netted the winner 3:38 into overtime.
That put Montreal back atop the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of idle Pittsburgh.
``It's a huge two points for us,'' Plekanec said. ``We didn't play well, but we showed some character in the end.''
Wild 4, Canucks 0
At St. Paul, Minn., Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brent Burns scored with the man advantage for Minnesota and sent Vancouver to its fourth straight loss.
Roberto Luongo was pulled for the second straight game, after giving up two goals in each of the first two periods. Bouchard scored for the first time in six weeks for Minnesota, which stretched its lead in the Northwest Division to three points over Calgary.
Niklas Backstrom posted his fourth shutout of the season and set a franchise record with 31 victories.
Devils 5, Flyers 4, SO
At Newark, N.J., Brian Gionta, Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner scored in the shootout to lead New Jersey to a 12th straight home victory over Philadelphia.
New Jersey snapped a season-high, five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and ended Philadelphia's four-game winning run. Every Devils shooter beat goalie Martin Biron in the tiebreaker.
Johnny Oduya had his first two-goal game for the Devils, who jumped over Ottawa into fourth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia is in seventh, two points behind the New York Rangers and one ahead of Boston.
Hurricanes 7, Thrashers 1
At Raleigh, N.C., Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Hamilton each scored two of Carolina's five franchise-record tying, power-play goals in a rout of Atlanta.
Eric Staal had a goal and two assists, Joe Corvo also scored with the man-advantage and Trevor Letowski added a short-handed goal for the Hurricanes.
Cam Ward made 25 saves in his career-high 16th straight start for the Hurricanes, who extended their Southeast Division lead over Washington to four points with four games left.
Blues 4, Red Wings 3, OT
At Detroit, Brad Boyes' second goal of the game and 40th of the season gave St. Louis an overtime win against NHL-leading Detroit.
Johan Franzen scored twice and Brian Rafalski netted Detroit's other goal. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk each had three assists, and Chris Osgood stopped 17 shots.
Avalanche 5, Oilers 4, SO
At Denver, Joe Sakic forced overtime by scoring with 5.9 seconds left in regulation, then added the decisive tally in a shootout for Colorado.
Wojtek Wolski and Milan Hejduk also scored in the shootout for the Avalanche, who pulled even with Calgary for sixth in the West playoff race with 90 points.
Tom Gilbert had a goal and an assist, and Dwyane Roloson made 32 saves for Edmonton. The Oilers, with 84 points, are two points behind Nashville.
Sharks 3, Ducks 1
At Anaheim, Calif., Brian Boucher made 23 saves for San Jose, which wrapped up the Pacific Division title and snapped the Ducks' 10-game home winning streak.
The Sharks, who have points in 18 straight games (16-0-2), won their third division crown.
Boucher shut out the Ducks after the first period, and Jeremy Roenick and Curtis Brown scored second-period goals.

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