BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Patrik Sundstrom and Barry Pederson scored 12 seconds apart late in the second period to break open a tight game and the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 Sunday night in a game between the teams with the poorest records in the NHL.

Dave Lowry had given the Canucks a 1-0 lead at 2:26 of the first period with his fifth goal of the season on the first shot of the game. Goalie Frank Caprice protected that advantage until Sundstrom beat Buffalo goalie Tom Barrassso with his 20th goal of the season at 17:59 of the second period and Pederson followed with his 20th at 18:11.

Dave Andreychuk beat Caprice with 46 seconds left in the period during a power play for Buffalo's first goal and his 19th. Christian Ruuttu scored his 21st goal at 5:29 of the third period to bring the Sabres within 3-2 but Vancouver's David Bruce got an insurance goal at 12:21.

The Sabres outshot the Canucks 37-19 but remained four points behind fourth-place Quebec in the race for the final playoff spot in the Adams Division. Vancouver, last in the Smythe Division, is nine point in back of fourth-place Los Angeles.

Play in the defensive zone was a determining factor in the game, with Vancouver playing solidly in front of Caprice and the Sabres playing loosely in front of Barrasso.

''Our defense hung in there well and gave them a low percentage of rebounds,'' said Caprice, who added that the Sabres probably were demoralized after he made six saves in the early minutes before the Canucks scored on their first shot on Barrasso.

''I think it takes a little out of their attack,'' he said. ''It's something that rarely happens to us.''

Vancouver Coach Tom Watt also credited his team's defense.

''Our discipline in our end tonight was a big factor,'' he said. ''We've outshot a lot of teams and not won, and tonight we were outshot but our discipline came through.''

Barrasso said the Sabres' ''play in our zone was a problem. We got sloppy in our own zone.''