The Buffalo Sabres had lost three straight home games and had won two of their previous seven overall, a stretch unbecoming a club that fancies itself among the NHL's elite.
Opponents apparently wanted to win more. They seemed hungrier than the Eastern Conference leaders, who got off to a great start but had played closer to mediocrity in recent weeks.
Desperation, in short supply lately, finally infiltrated the way the Sabres play Wednesday night after coach Lindy Ruff threatened to bench anyone not willing to earn their shifts or pay attention to detail.
The Sabres avenged Monday afternoon's road loss to the Boston Bruins by beating them soundly, 6-3, in HSBC Arena.
"In the situation it was a little more important," Sabres winger Ales Kotalik said of shaking the slump. "There is a winning feeling in the locker room. We needed to get back to that."
All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell banked a long one-timer with 9:55 remaining to break a 3-3 tie and winger Maxim Afinogenov finished a breakaway with 5:16 left, sending the Sabres to their first home victory since New Year's Day. Rookie winger Daniel Paille scored two goals, including an empty-netter with 42 seconds to play.
The Sabres scored five or more goals for only the third time in 25 games after doing so 11 times through their first 22. They had scored only two goals in each of their past four games.
"It's getting back to normal, but it's not where we need to be yet," Campbell said. "A lot of positives, but we were still a little sloppy. It's a step in the right direction. We were first on pucks more. We were skating. We had the legs. We were getting in on the forecheck.
"We were desperate. We needed that win. . . . Hopefully we can kind of turn this thing around."
Ruff said he had a blunt talk with his players Tuesday, informing them playing time henceforth would be judged on nightly preparedness and passion rather than past performances or contracts.
"If you're not going to battle, you won't get the ice time," Ruff said he told the team. "Just not going to hand out the free ice time. The guys that are going to battle and compete, you'll build up your ice time. You're not going to be handed it shift after shift if the commitment isn't there to play."
Afinogenov had 13:30 of ice time, his lowest of the season aside from the Nov. 4 game in which he was injured. Paille, called up from Rochester on Saturday, skated a career-high 19:30.
"Basically, you can earn your account and it can go up by playing hard, playing hard, playing hard," Ruff said. "It's a great group of guys in there. I just don't like the way we were playing."
The Sabres scored three goals in the first period. Thomas Vanek converted the first power play and Paille broke through 96 seconds later. Derek Roy added another goal 5.5 ticks before intermission.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stopped 25 shots, one fewer than Bruins counterpart Tim Thomas.
Boston rookie Phil Kessel, a week after undergoing testicular cancer treatment that forced him off the ice for 12 games, scored twice for his first multigoal NHL game. The fifth pick in last summer's draft pounced on the puck after Buffalo defenseman Dmitri Kalinin fanned on a pass inside the blue line. Kessel broke in alone on Miller and sent a shot between the goalie's knees 6:57 into the game.
Boston tied the score with 1:42 left in the first period on a Glen Murray power-play goal that never should have been. Zdeno Chara skated the puck into Buffalo's zone but brought the puck back over the blue line before passing. Murray's wrister from the right circle stood.
Roy took away some of the sting by putting the Sabres on top 5.5 seconds before the intermission. He won a faceoff in the Bruins zone and redirected an Afinogenov one-timer.
Kessel struck again 56 seconds into the third period to tie the score at 3. He took a cross-ice pass from Marc Savard and blasted a one-timer from the left circle over Miller's blocker.
Campbell's sixth goal of the season was his first in a dozen games and his second in 22. It stood as the winner, his first of the season after tying Chris Drury and Kotalik for last season's team lead with five.
Sabres 6 Bruins 3
Slap shots: Campbell, Afinogenov, Paille score in third period to break three-game home losing streak ... Vanek, Paille strike 96 seconds apart in first period ... Kessel pots first goals since returning from cancer treatment.
Fast fact: Briere's two assists give him career-high 38.
Next game: Vancouver Canucks, 8 p.m. Friday at HSBC Arena