Kaleta's pair leads Sabres past Rangers
Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 5:15 AM
Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff WriterNEW YORK –
With a little prodding from an NFL player, Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta
decided he was going to work on his goal celebration. The 23-year-old's rehearsals came in handy on Saturday night against the New York Rangers
Kaleta had the first two-goal game of his career, including the shorthanded game-winner, as the Sabres held off the Rangers 3-2 in front of a capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden.
After scoring his first goal of the game in the opening period to tie the score at 2-2, it looked like Kaleta just won the Stanley Cup and earned himself the phone number of Megan Fox. Kaleta jumped to his feet and skated to the near boards in a low crouch, all the while pumping his fist in an exaggerated fashion before leaping into the glass.
In the locker room following the game, everyone wanted to know from where Kaleta received his inspiration. Even teammate Jason Pominville
was eager to hear the answer. Not even he could've guessed it was all because of Buffalo Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell.
"Believe it or not, my neighbor, Kawika Mitchell, he plays for the Bills, we talked about celebrations because I'd seen him coming out for the home opener and he's doing some celebration and I'm like, 'What are you doing?'" Kaleta explained. "He's like, 'Man, you gotta bring it every night.' I just wanted to give something back to that guy.
"When I score a goal, I don't know when I’m going to score again or if it'll ever happen again. I treat it like it's my last goal."
Heck, it wasn't even his last goal of the game. The Buffalo native put the Sabres ahead for good midway through the second period with a shorthanded breakaway goal, a wicked wrist shot that zipped over the catching glove of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
"That was an outstanding performance. It really was," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Kaleta. "I thought his overall game was excellent. He gave us great energy. It was just a great night for him."
Not surprisingly, Rangers coach John Tortorella had a different view of Kaleta's shorthanded goal.
"Our power play was working early and you get one scored on you and the way we are struggling to be consistent offensively, it is just a kick in the teeth," Tortorella said.
Kaleta's heroics and theatrics came in support of goaltender Ryan Miller
, who stopped 36 shots and all 24 he faced over the final two periods to emerge victorious. The Rangers had chances to tie the game in the third period, especially on a power play in the final five minutes. But Miller and the Sabres clamped down defensively.
"I thought our PP early on was getting shots on net and we had guys crashing there," Rangers winger Ryan Callahan
said. "I think late in that third there we need to start throwing more pucks at Miller and try to get a dirty goal."
After scoring seven goals in a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 23, the Rangers' offense has been scuffling. They've scored just 13 goals in the eight games since that outburst, and the only thing that worked for the Rangers on Saturday was the power play.
's seventh of the season put the Sabres ahead 1-0 at 6:25 of the first, but the Rangers responded with two power-play goals less than two minutes apart.
Callahan took a pass in front from Marian Gaborik
and beat Miller's poke check to make it 1-1. Then Gaborik's League-leading 22nd of the season with the Rangers on a 4-on-3 power play gave the Blueshirts a 2-1 lead. Gaborik walked down from the point, used Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers
as a screen, and fired a bullet over Miller's shoulder.
"He used Tyler as a bit of a screen there," Miller said, "but that's one where I want to get a piece of it, knock it down, knowing that he's a shooter most of the time. But he made a nice shot, give him credit. Same with Callahan, made a nice shot."
With Miller and Lundqvist in net Saturday, fans were treated to a likely Olympic goaltending preview between the favorites to start for the United States and Sweden, respectively, at the 2010 Winter Games. Miller leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.83) and save percentage (.939) but he's not quite ready to start imagining showdowns with Lundqvist in Vancouver.
"The tournament in Vancouver will be completely different, different teams," said Miller, who's not ready to assume he's starting for the U.S. team yet. "I'm just taking the approach every night that I'm on the right kind of path I need to be on to get to the Olympics. I'm going to take care of my business.
"There will be so much to talk about and write about when the Olympic time comes. I think right now I'm going to make it boring and cliché for you guys and keep my mind where it needs to be, which is on the Buffalo Sabres
Lundqvist can't think about the 2010 Games, either. After another night in which his offense let him down, he was left answering questions about if the pressure of playing with such a small margin for error was getting to him.
"I mean, I try to stick to my game plan and not get too involved in what the guys are doing in front of me," Lundqvist said. "I think everybody is trying to figure out how to play better and how to help the team. The best thing I can do is focus on my game and try to play as good as possible.
"I know we haven't been scoring that much and I know we can't afford to let in too many goals. I know that. You don't want to think, 'I can't let in a goal.' You have to think, 'I'm going to make the next save.' It's a big difference in the way you think."
With a six-game-in-10-day stretch starting Monday and a backup in Chad Johnson
with zero NHL experience, Lundqvist's mindset will be severely tested headed into the Christmas break.
Contact Dave Lozo at: email@example.com.