NEW YORK - There is one remaining undefeated NHL team from New York, and it isn't the Rangers.
After three games, it's time to take a look at the suddenly defensive-minded Buffalo Sabres. Thomas Vanek scored twice, once on a power play and again when Buffalo was short-handed, and the Sabres handed the Rangers their first loss, 3-1 Wednesday night.
The Sabres certainly were aware of the Rangers' 5-0 start and they were happy to beat them at Madison Square Garden. Buffalo is 3-0 and has allowed only one goal in each game.
"We all heard about how good the Rangers are, and they are really good," Vanek said. "They're off to a great start, so it's good for us to come in here and play a solid a road game and give up only one goal."
Vanek scored the second of Buffalo's two power-play goals in the second - the first man-advantage tallies allowed by the Rangers this season - and then widened the lead in the third. He has five goals in the Sabres' first three games, including consecutive two-goal contests.
He also has the first two short-handed goals of his career, welcoming the added work of penalty killing from coach Lindy Ruff. Despite the results, the job is hardly coming to him naturally.
"No it's not," Vanek said, laughing. "Lindy has been giving me some responsibilities and I am going to take my challenge positively and hopefully I can stay on it.
"I'm actually trying not to give up any when I'm out there. The two shorties are just a bonus."
Ales Kotalik also scored and Ryan Miller had a quiet night in goal for Buffalo, which trailed 1-0 and recorded only 18 shots. Ruff, the longest current tenured coach in the NHL, became the 23rd to reach 400 career victories.
"I've had a lot of good players and a lot of good teams," Ruff said.
Scott Gomez was the only one to get a puck past Miller, who made 19 saves, and he did it by getting hit by deflecting a shot from teammate Michal Rozsival. New York was trying for its first 6-0 record in club history.
Buffalo gained control after Paul Mara took a major penalty for fighting and was ejected from the game at the midway point, leaving the Rangers with five defencemen.
Mara absorbed a hard hit from Patrick Kaleta along the boards near the right point and immediately dropped his gloves and threw punches as Kaleta crouched and covered up.
There was already bad blood between the two because a hit from Kaleta in February caused fractures in Mara's face that required surgery and knocked the defenceman out for 12 games.
"It's two hits on me that he has jumped," Mara said. "I just made a decision that enough is enough from that little guy. If he was a man, he would've dropped the gloves and stood in there. I did what I had to do.
"I'll always remember that hit. And when he was in the scrum he made a pretty classless move, asking me how my face was. You don't want to hurt guys in this league, and to have him say something like that, it's classless."
Mara landed several shots while Kaleta kept his gloves on and tried to protect himself. Buffalo came away without any penalties and a five-minute power play at 10:03.
"I caught him pretty good last year, but it's part of the game," Kaleta said. "I go in and finish the check. That's my job and that's what I have to do. Whether he didn't like it, or it was from last year, I'm not too sure."
Vanek made the Rangers pay when he swooped in after a rebound of Derek Roy's shot that hit off goalie Henrik Lundqvist's glove and slammed in the loose puck to make it 2-1 with 7:30 left in the second.
New York had a chance to get back into the game, in which it was outshot 13-9 through two periods, when Sabres captain Craig Rivet took a four-minute penalty for high-sticking. But only 1:06 later, Vanek finished a 2-on-1 off a crisp pass from Daniel Paille.
Kotalik snapped New York's streak of 23 consecutive penalty kills to start the season when he poked the puck through a maze of legs and between Lundqvist's pads at 6:32.
"We got a little sloppy, and they're a team that takes advantage of that," Rangers captain Chris Drury said. "W came out with a lot of energy and we were sharp early. It kind of faded as the game went on."
Gomez put the Rangers ahead 1-0 at 6:32 of the first.
Notes: Rangers RW Petr Prucha returned to the lineup, in place of Dan Fritsche. ... Vanek netted his first NHL short-handed goal Monday against the New York Islanders. ... LW Matt Ellis made his Sabres debut in place of C Jochen Hecht, who is out at least two weeks (finger surgery).