DALLAS — Cody Eakin's goal capped off the Dallas Stars' comeback on Monday night.
The Stars trailed by a goal after two periods.
"We talked about desperation, and get dirty and create traffic and get some guys in front," Eakin said.
Captain Jamie Benn, Patrick Eaves and Eakin scored in the third period to lift the Stars over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3.
Benn's goal was his second of the game. Eaves' came when he got to the front of the net and the puck deflected off him for a goal.
Eakin's game winner came at 16:46.
"It looked like it would go into overtime until we made that late play," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. "Those are the plays you've got to make."
The Stars' desperation came from their attempt to earn the Western Conference's final wild-card playoff spot.
They have won six of their past seven games. But with nine games left, they remained eight points behind Winnipeg. The Jets won their fifth in a row on Monday.
The Sabres, last in the NHL with 47 points, are 1-8-2 in their past 11 games.
"We didn't want to let these guys jeopardize or ruin our season," Eakin said.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan noted the difference between the teams.
"They have game-breakers. We don't win a faceoff to save our soul. We have guys from the AHL that are learning on the job, and it's pretty tough."
Buffalo captain Brian Gionta scored two goals. Matt Moulson had a goal and an assist.
Benn earned his 200th assist on Eaves' goal, which tied the game at 3-3 at 12:35 of the third.
"(Benn) was hurting at the end of the game, but still muscled the rest of the game out for us," Ruff said. "That's what leaders do."
On the winner, Eakin took a pass from John Klingberg in the left faceoff circle and beat Sabres goalie Anders Lindback, who began the season with Dallas.
Lindback finished with 35 saves.
"I kind of lost my ground there a little bit," he said. "As a goalie, got to find a way."
"We got kind of mixed up out at the blue (line), lost coverage and they found the guy breaking to the net," Gionta said.
Dallas' Kari Lehtonen made 25 saves.
The Sabres opened the scoring at 13:39 of the first period, when Gionta beat Lehtonen with the rebound of Marcus Foligno's shot.
Buffalo took seven of the game's first 10 shots, but the Stars took over for the remainder of the period.
Including six shots on power plays, Dallas outshot the Sabres 17-9 in the first.
Benn tied the game at 19:31 when he moved in front of the net and tipped Eaves' drive from the point barely across the goal line.
Buffalo put pressure on the Stars in the second period. The Sabres had the period's first eight shots on goal, and cashed in on the power play at 11:07.
Gionta tipped in the puck from a scramble in front after Johan Larsson shot from the top of the right faceoff circle.
Benn again tied the game with a power-play goal at 1:56 of the third. He picked up a loose puck in the slot, turned and shot past Lindback from the edge of the left circle.
NOTES: The teams' captains, Gionta and Benn, scored the first four goals. ... Gionta's most recent two-goal game had been Nov. 18 against San Jose. ... Sabres RW Jerry D'Amigo was scratched after taking a high stick in the face on Saturday at Nashville. The Predators' Craig Smith was fined $5,000 for the hit. ... The teams split the two-game season series. ... The Stars finished the season 19-11-2 against the East.