BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The red-hot Winnipeg Jets defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 Monday night, setting up a pivotal division clash with playoff implications against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.
Antti Miettinen scored with 7:36 remaining to give the Jets two critical points in the final stage of the season. Aaron Gagon also scored for the Jets, and Ondrej Pavelec had 24 saves -- including a highlight-reel glove stop on Thomas Vanek with under six minutes to go.
With the win, the Jets (24-19-3) have 51 points -- one fewer than the Capitals, who sit atop the Southeast Division. The two teams square off Tuesday in Washington.
The Capitals have one game in hand on Winnipeg, meaning the Jets do not control their own destiny in the division race, but Tuesday's game could go a long way in deciding which team makes it to the postseason. After Tuesday, the Capitals end the season with home games against Ottawa and the Boston Bruins. Winnipeg's lone game after Tuesday is home against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
The Jets, 6-0-1 in their last seven games, are also one point behind the eighth-place New York Rangers for the final playoff spot in the East regardless of division. The Rangers, like the Capitals, have a game in hand on Winnipeg.
Vanek scored for the Sabres, who fell to 19-21-6. Jhonas Enroth had 37 saves.
Miettinen scored the game-winner on a blast from the right point at 12:24 of the third. The shot hit Enroth under the goalie's left arm and continued into the net for the defenseman's third goal of the year.
The Jets jumped in front at 7:22 of the second period on their 22nd shot of the game. Defenseman Derek Meech skated past Buffalo's Jochen Hecht along the left boards and fed Gagnon, who redirected the puck into the top of the net. It was Gagnon's third goal of the season.
Buffalo tied the game on the power play just over four minutes later on Vanek's 18th goal of the season. Tyler Ennis found Vanek camped in the slot, and Buffalo's leading scorer redirected the puck past Pavelec. Vanek moved into a three-way tie for third in the NHL with nine power-play goals.
The Jets got off to a quick start but were unable to capitalize on any of their chances within the first 20 minutes.
Evander Kane nearly opened the scoring at 14:59 after being awarded a penalty shot. Kane was illegally taken down on his initial breakaway attempt, but the forward's wrister on the penalty shot was stopped by Enroth. Enroth got a piece of Kane's shot with his glove, and the puck deflected off the cross bar and over the net. Winnipeg outshot Buffalo 15-4 in the opening period.
NOTES: Rookie Mikhail Grigorenko played in his first game with the Sabres since March 12; the rookie was sent down to his junior team, the Quebec Remparts, following that contest. Grigorenko returned to the Sabres after the Remparts were eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs. ... Ville Leino (upper body), Patrick Kaleta (hand) and Tyler Myers (broken leg) were scratched for the Sabres. ... Jacob Trouba, Olli Jokinen, Anthony Peluso, Arturs Kulda, Zach Redmond, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Nik Antropov were scratched for the Jets. ... This was the 51st meeting all-time between Buffalo and Winnipeg/Atlanta. It was also the third and final meeting between the teams this season.