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Rangers need to recover to keep up with speedy Sabres @NHL

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Jaromir Jagr's calm demeanor gradually gave way to agitation.

Standing in the middle of the New York Rangers locker room Thursday, Jagr grew weary with the line of questioning now that his team finds itself trailing a series for the first time this postseason.

"It's the same question over and over: 'Do we have to change something?"' Jagr said, raising his voice slightly.

"Yes," he said. "And if we're going to have to change something, it's up to us."

Jagr didn't go into much detail about what changes the Rangers will have to make for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Buffalo on Friday.

What's evident is that New York - coming off a first-round sweep of Atlanta - suddenly faces its first test this postseason, needing to muster a considerable response after being outplayed in a 5-2 loss to the top-seeded Sabres on Wednesday.

Too many penalties and turnovers, and not enough speed cost the Rangers, who faltered in failing to contain the Sabres' potent transition attack. Buffalo took control by scoring three goals on four shots in a span of 4:05 in the second period.

The Rangers were evenly split in crediting the Sabres for their performance and blaming themselves for what went wrong.

"We made our bed last night and we're fully aware of that," coach Tom Renney said. "At the same time, we have to recognize that Buffalo played very well. But we helped beat ourselves."

Four penalties in the first period, and six through two periods didn't help. The Rangers also wore down defensively, allowing the Sabres to start skating untouched through the neutral zone.

The five goals allowed, including an empty-netter, were one shy of the number the Rangers gave up in four games against Atlanta. And the loss put a sudden halt to a New York team that had been on a roll, going 17-3-4 in its previous 24 games dating to the regular season.

The Sabres, by comparison, are confident they're beginning to hit their stride, shedding whatever tentativeness that limited them in eliminating the New York Islanders in five games in the first round.

"I hope so," Sabres co-captain Chris Drury said. "But we don't really look at it in terms like that. It's one game, one win. ... I'm sure they're going to come out absolutely flying. We expect nothing less."

Buffalo's deep and talented lineup proved too much. Led by Thomas Vanek's two goals, the Sabres got production from each of their four lines and added another on the power play.

Through six playoff games, 12 of Buffalo's 18 skaters have scored a goal, while 17 have registered at least one point after Jochen Hecht earned his first assist Wednesday.

The balanced attack is enough for coach Lindy Ruff to shy away from numbering his lines from 1 to 4.

"I don't want to put a number on the lines because I don't think you really can," Ruff said. "I liked a lot of things about the game. I liked the energy in the game. I liked the effort."

The Rangers are mostly a three-line team that needs to get a better defensive effort from its second line, featuring center Martin Straka and wingers Brendan Shanahan and Sean Avery. Although Shanahan scored a goal, the Straka line was on the ice for three of Buffalo's five goals.

The Rangers might also be minus a key player after Michal Rozsival, New York's best offensive defenseman, did not return after hurting his leg in Game 1. Rozsival missed practice Thursday and is listed as day-to-day.

The Rangers vow they can play better, especially after playing their first game in seven days.

"The sharpness and the ability to do it over 60 minutes really wasn't there," said Shanahan. "We feel we not only have to play better, but we can."

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