Maybe all the New York Rangers
needed to beat the Buffalo Sabres
was Chris Drury
Drury was a Sabre last spring when Buffalo eliminated the Rangers in the second round of the playoffs. But he signed with the Rangers as a free agent last summer and was on the winning side Wednesday night when New York beat Buffalo 2-1 at Madison Square Garden in their first meeting since the playoffs.
''It's always a little weird the first time,'' Drury said of his first game against his old team, ''and surely it will be a little weirder up there. Once the game started, it was fine. We're just trying to win hockey games.''
The Sabres lost Drury and Daniel Briere, their top two centers, to free agency during the summer. The fallout has really hit since Christmas: The loss to the Rangers was a team-record 10th in a row for the Sabres, who are 0-5-5 since sweeping a home-and-home series from Philadelphia on Dec. 21-22. They are two games from matching the longest winless streak in team history.
''It's better than getting blown out,'' goalie Ryan Miller said of the Sabres, who have lost by more than two goals just once during the skid. ''We're right there and it's something to build off of.
''It's frustrating any time you lose and when you put yourself in this kind of position in this League.”
Youngsters Brandon Dubinsky and Petr Prucha each had a goal and an assist for the Rangers, who bounced back after a 4-1 loss in Pittsburgh on Monday. The third member of their line, Nigel Dawes, had an assist on Dubinsky’s goal. The “Kid Line” also had two goals in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Montreal, and coach Tom Renney has noticed how well the trio is playing.
"The three young guys certainly are making a case for themselves for regular duty," Renney said. "They do the right things, and they get rewarded." Dubinsky beat Miller with a high wrist shot 6:15 into the game after a nice passing play with his linemates ( 700K ).
"We’re having fun out there together," Dubinsky said. "We’re just trying to maximize our time in their zone and minimize their time in ours, and then we can use the talent the three of us have and help provide some offense for the team."
Buffalo tied it 2:43 into the second period when Jason Pominville finished off a 4-on-3 rush by hammering Clarke MacArthur’s pass behind Henrik Lundqvist ( 700K ). But Prucha put the Rangers ahead to stay at 9:42, tipping Paul Mara’s slap shot past Miller after Dubinsky won a faceoff ( 700K ).
The Rangers made things hard for themselves in the second half of the period by taking four straight penalties, including two that gave the Sabres a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:52. The Rangers allowed just two shots on goal during the two-man advantage while blocking several other shots, including a pair by Blair Betts.
"When you see people sacrificing their bodies, and doing everything they can to put the power play to rest, it's great to see," Renney said. "But it takes a toll, too."
Lundqvist made 23 saves, including an excellent stop on Pominville's desperation, deflected right wing shot with 9.5 seconds remaining in the game, to earn his 20th victory.
"It was a little weird. I went down for the shot and it never came until a second later," Lundqvist said. "It's always hard when you expect a hard shot and it kind of dies on you."
For the Sabres, it was another night of coming close without winning.
''We weren't good enough. That's the bottom line,'' Pominville said.
Flyers 5, Panthers 3 | Video
Philadelphia made sure Jacques Martin will have to wait at least one more game for his 500th NHL coaching victory. Daniel Briere scored twice as Philadelphia held off the Panthers, denying Martin the milestone for the third straight game.
Martin, looking to become the 10th coach in NHL history to win 500 games, got No. 499 on Jan. 10 at Atlanta, but Florida has lost three straight since. Jay Bouwmeester ( 700K ), Rostislav Olesz and Stephen Weiss had goals for the Panthers, who have dropped five of six.
The Flyers have won two in a row and are 5-0-1 in their last six. The win moved them within two points of Atlantic Division leaders New Jersey and Pittsburgh.
Simon Gagne broke a 1-1 tie by knocking in a rebound at 12:14 for a power-play goal ( 700K ). The Flyers then scored twice in a 1:21 span late in the period to go up 4-1. Briere scored another power-play goal at 16:38 when he screened wrist shot beat Tomas Vokoun ( 700K ), and Scott Hartnell fired a shot from the right boards that hit a Florida defenseman and went into the net at 17:59 ( 700K ).
“We created all kinds of scoring opportunities and the power play got going,” Flyers coach John Stevens said after his team went 2-for-7 with the extra man. “Power plays, certainly in a hockey game, really go a long way, and [they] did tonight. It really seemed to give us energy and momentum and got the crowd behind us.”
Martin said penalties were the big difference.
''We were playing well early and they were not getting much,'' he said. ''We had momentum and lost it because we lost 10 minutes of the game in penalties.”
But the Panthers didn’t quit. Olesz scored an unassisted goal at 13:01 of the second period after a turnover by Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher ( 700K ) and Weiss cut the margin to one when he scored while falling in front of the net after taking a pass from Olli Jokinen at 18:28 ( 700K ).
“We started off pretty good tonight, but then we sat back in the second period,” said defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who had the Flyers’ first goal and set up two others ( 700K ). “That is the thing we have to learn, we need to keep it going and make the game 6-1 instead of 4-3. Maybe it is an experience thing, but it is something we have to learn.”
Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves, including nine in the final period. His best was a spectacular stop on Richard Zednik, who had a wide open net ( 700K ). Briere put the game away by hitting the empty net with 32 seconds remaining ( 700K ).
Florida captain Olli Jokinen said the Panthers have to keep mistakes to a minimum when they play the Flyers.
''We gave up way too many odd-man rushes,'' Jokinen said. ''Some of the penalties we'd like to have back, but overall it was a fair game, with some good clean hits.
Blackhawks 6, Blues 1 | Video
Rookie Patrick Kane ended a nine-game goal-scoring drought as the Blackhawks won their second straight game after losing eight in a row.
The Blues may have lost more than a game. Starting goalie Manny Legace left after the scoreless first period with an injured right arm. Legace, named to the Western Conference All-Star team last week, stopped all seven shots he faced, but didn’t return for the second period after a collision with Chicago’s Patrick Sharp late in the first.
The Hawks took advantage of rookie backup Marek Schwarz. Jack Skille opened the scoring 9:19 into the second, scoring on a backhander after Tuomo Ruutu took the puck away from Jay McKee ( 700K ). Rene Bourque’s screened wrist shot at 15:19 made it 2-0 ( 700K ).
Lee Stempniak cut the margin to one with 1:19 remaining in the period, banging the rebound of David Backes’ shot past Patrick Lalime ( 700K ).
Kane made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 1:02 of the second period, beating Schwarz with a one-timer from inside the right circle ( 700K ). Dustin Byfuglien's shot deflected off defenseman Bryce Salvador’s skate and into the net at 7:23 ( 700K ).
"Everybody is playing extremely well," said Lalime, who finished with 32 saves. "It's a good feeling. We were very close and now we're seeing the results. It's a huge win. Everybody gets credit for this one. We all have our role and we stuck to the plan."
St. Louis coach Andy Murray pulled Schwarz for an extra attacker with 6:50 left, and Kane scored an empty-net goal with 5:22 left ( 700K ). With Schwarz back in net, Kane set up Yanic Perreault’s goal with 2:41 remaining ( 700K ).
“We didn't compete hard enough in 50 of the 60 minutes," Stempniak said. "We gave them too many chances. Our intensity just wasn't there. We had a lot of optimism — and then we gave up the power-play goal (to Kane) and it really deflated us."
Flames 3, Wild 2, SO | Video
Kristian Huselius scored in regulation and again in the shootout as Calgary ended a four-game losing streak by winning at Minnesota.
Huselius knocked a rebound past Niklas Backstrom 1:14 into the third period to put Calgary ahead 2-1 ( 700K ). Minnesota defenseman Kurtis Foster tied it with a power-play goal at 4:35, beating Miikka Kiprusoff with a slap shot from the right point ( 700K ).
“That goal was big,” Foster said. “We have four games left before the (All-Star) break and we need every point we can get.”
Huselius went first in the shootout and beat Backstrom with a wrist shot ( 700K) . After the next three shooters missed, Jarome Iginla scored on a backhander.
“I wanted to change it up a little bit,” said Huselius, who has scored in all four of his shootout attempts. “Jarome made a great move to go high and he roofed it.”
Kiprusoff made 29 saves and stopped Mikko Koivu and Brian Rolston in the shootout.
“Kipper stole two points from us tonight,” said Backstrom, a late replacement for Josh Harding who also made 29 saves — including a stop on Huselius’ breakaway in the final half-minute of overtime. The Wild said Harding tweaked his groin before the game. Backstrom found out he was playing five minutes before game time.
''It wasn't easy, but you can't think too much about that,'' Backstrom said. ''You need to step up and try to help the team, be there for the team when they need you. You can't hide behind that or find excuses. You have to go out there and play your best.''
The victory made the flight back to Calgary a lot more pleasant for the Flames, who weren’t sharp in Tuesday night’s loss at Nashville.
''We haven't been playing well at all our last few games and we were trying to stop it and get some momentum going again,'' Iginla said. ''These are almost four-point games. You want them. They are huge momentum.''
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used in this report.