BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Behind a record-setting five-goal burst, the New York Rangers are one step closer to the playoffs.
The Rangers scored five times in a span of 2:58 on their way to an 8-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at the First Niagara Center. With the win, the Rangers sit alone in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points (23-17-4), two ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg.
"You know, after the first 10 minutes, I thought this would be a one- or two-goal game, tops," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "And then at the end of the first it was bang, bang, bang. It just opened things up. ... It was definitely a different type of game. You haven't seen much of this this year, but we'll take it.
Carl Hagelin, Brad Richards and Ryane Clowe scored in the final 1:18 of the first period to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Richards and Anton Stralman scored in the first 1:40 of the second period to give New York an insurmountable lead.
Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan also scored for New York. The five goals in 2:58 was a franchise record for the fastest five goals in franchise history, beating the previous record of 3:22 (Feb. 5, 1985 vs. Edmonton).
"A couple go off skates and this and that ... we found a way," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We haven't had many of those this year. We'll certainly take it at this time of year."
The Sabres (19-20-6, 44 points) were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the ugly loss. Cody Hodgson, Nathan Gerbe, Drew Stafford and Mark Pysyk scored for Buffalo.
"Of course, it's disconcerting," Sabres interim coach Ron Rolston sid. "We lost a game that we needed to win."
Hagelin kicked off the rout with 1:18 left in the first period. His wrap-around pass deflected off Buffalo defenseman Adam Pardy's skate and into the Buffalo net to put New York up 1-0.
New York's next goal came off another deflection from a Buffalo skate. Richards scored with 21 seconds left in the period when his shot from the far right circle deflected off Andrej Sekera's skate and in.
It was New York's third goal that stood out from the rest. With just seconds left in the first period, Clowe tossed the puck toward the Buffalo net and chased toward Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. Miller fanned on his clearing attempt and Clowe deposited the puck into the back of the net with a backhand deke.
"I just shot in on net hoping to do nothing, really, just get it on net," Clowe said. "And once I realized there was a little bit of time left ... I thought I'd forecheck and I don't know. I think he just went over the top of it and I knew he was kind of out of the net, so I tried to go to my backhand and it worked."
Miller said, "It's one of the worst mistakes I've made in my whole time here, worst timing. Not fun to have to go through that three-minute segment."
Buffalo fans gave Miller a Bronx cheer when he made a routine clearance early in the second period -- and Miller responded by waving an arm in the air -- and the crowd cheered when Miller was pulled after New York's fourth goal 1:13 into the second period. Stralman beat Miller with a wrist shot to his glove side from the right circle.
"If they can dish it out, they can take it back," Miller said of his gesture. "I sat there and took it. I screwed up. I made a critical error. That is all about me connecting with the puck. Well, I didn't feel it on my blade as I started to shoot it. So I was trying to slow-motion down and find it and then just end up whiffing it straight ahead. It's a pretty bad decision."
Jhonas Enroth, Miller's replacement, didn't fare any better when the Rangers struck once again 27 seconds later. Enroth made the initial save on John Moore's shot from the point, but Richards pounced on the rebound -- which Enroth had with his stick behind his back -- and put New York up 5-0.
Nash made it 6-0 at 7:05 of the second on his wrist shot from the right circle.
The Sabres staged a brief rally with two goals six seconds apart later in the second period. Hodgson's redirection got Buffalo on the board at 13:50, and Gerbe scored six seconds later to make it 6-2.
Callahan kept the goals coming for New York with his 12th of the season at 14:28 of the second. Stafford scored his sixth of the year at 16:19 of the second to make it 7-3.
Richards picked up his first career hat trick with 7:28 remaining on his third goal of the game. Pysyk scored his first NHL goal with 40 seconds left to make it 8-4.
With four games remaining, the Rangers now have the inside track on the final playoff spot, but they're not in the clear yet. The Rangers are back at it on Sunday with a home game against New Jersey. The Jets also have four games remaining.
"This was a game in hand on a couple of teams," Tortorella said. "I think it distances us from a couple other teams. So we'll take it and get the hell out of here and start playing another game against Jersey."
NOTES: Buffalo's next game against Pittsburgh, originally scheduled for Saturday, was moved to Tuesday after Pittsburgh's game against Boston, originally scheduled for Friday night, was moved to Saturday afternoon because of the situation in Boston. ... Brian Boyle, Roman Hamrlik and Matt Gilroy were scratched for the Rangers. ... Ville Leino, Tyler Myers and Mikhail Grigorenko were scratched for the Sabres. Grigorenko recently returned to Buffalo from his junior team, the Quebec Remparts. ... This was the 165th game all time between the Sabres and Rangers. The Sabres lead the series with a record of 78-54-33.