NEW YORK - Thomas Vanek scored twice, once on a power play and again when Buffalo was short-handed, and the Sabres handed the New York Rangers their first loss of the season, 3-1 Wednesday night.
Vanek scored the second of Buffalo's two power-play goals in the second period - the first man-advantage goals allowed by the Rangers in six games this season - and then put the Sabres ahead in the third. He already has five goals in the Sabres' first three games, including consecutive two-goal contests.
Ales Kotalik also scored and Ryan Miller had a quiet night in goal for Buffalo (3-0), which trailed 1-0 and recorded only 18 shots. Lindy Ruff, the longest current tenured coach in the NHL, became the 23rd to reach 400 career victories.
Scott Gomez was the only one to get a puck past Miller, who made 19 saves, and he did it by getting hit by a shot from teammate Michal Rozsival. New York was trying for its first 6-0 record in club history, but settled for tying the best start that was established in 1983.
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.
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.
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, Buffalo broke out of the Rangers zone on a 2-on-1 that Vanek finished superbly off a crisp pass from Daniel Paille.
The Rangers played a poor second period for the second straight game, but unlike Monday night's 4-1 home victory against New Jersey, they didn't get away with it.
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 in the crease and managed to get it to trickle between Lundqvist's pads at 6:32.
Gomez put the Rangers ahead 1-0 after dropping a pass for Rozsival inside the blue-line and then charged the net. While screening Miller, Gomez was struck by Rozsival's shot that caromed in at 6:32.
Notes: RW Petr Prucha returned to the Rangers' lineup, in place of Dan Fritsche, for the first time since he played the opening two games in his native Czech Republic. ... Buffalo opened with three straight wins for the second time in three seasons. ... Vanek, a newcomer to penalty killing, has short-handed goals in consecutive games. He netted the first of his career Monday in a 7-1 win over the New York Islanders.