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Surprise stars play big roles in OT win

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers teammates credited the play of backup goaltender Martin Biron for opening the door to an overtime win. Biron, who was named the starter on short notice, finished with 29 saves vs. his ex-team.

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On a night where Marian Gaborik returned to the lineup after a 12-game absence, it was a player who had not scored in nine games and a goaltender who did not even expect to play who shared the spotlight in the Rangers’ thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Gaborik’s return from a separated left shoulder clearly injected some life into the Rangers’ attack on Thursday, but while last season’s leading scorer was held without a point, Artem Anisimov scored twice for the Blueshirts, including the game-winner 1:32 into overtime. Meanwhile, Martin Biron, playing in the place of the ailing Henrik Lundqvist, who was out with the flu, stepped in to also play a starring role and finished with 29 saves.

“Marty was great in net, and I think everybody chipped in and everybody helped the team to win,” said Gaborik. “It was a huge win, and a big goal by Artie when we needed it.”

With Lundqvist set to make the start on Thursday, Biron not only took part in the team’s optional morning skate, but he was on the ice longer than usual playing with his six-year old son.

However when Lundqvist arrived at The Garden a couple of hours before game time feeling too ill to play, Biron quickly refocused and shifted gears preparing to make the start in goal.

“Even before (John Tortorella) told me I was starting I was kind of already in game mode because I knew I had to be prepared for anything,” said Biron, who earned his second victory in four starts this season. “It’s part of the job to be ready for things like that.”

Ironically, during warm-ups an Anisimov shot hit Biron in the sternum and briefly shook up the Rangers’ starting goalie. After warm-ups Biron came into the locker room -- where Lundqvist had remained while his teammates warmed-up on the ice -- and told his goaltending partner that Lundqvist almost was forced to make the start despite feeling so sick.

Fortunately Biron was OK, and he went out and turned in a gem between the pipes for the Rangers, who won for the first time in three tries on their current four-game homestand.

His first big save came 6:20 into the game when he made a sharp stick save on Rob Niedermeyer, alone on a breakaway after exiting the penalty box. And his last came when he refused to allow Derek Roy’s bank shot off a 2-on-1 break with Thomas Vanek to get past him, only seconds before Anisimov scored the overtime winner.

“He just kind of got thrown in there, and I thought he made some huge saves,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said of Biron. “That’s what I like most about him, he made some big saves at key times for us.”

Ruslan Fedotenko opened the scoring -- netting his first goal in 11 games off a goal-mouth scramble at 14:04 of the first period. Buffalo pulled even at 15:33 of the second when Tyler Ennis jammed one underneath Biron, also during a wild scramble in front.

Rangers forward Artem Anisimov celebrates the first of his two goals, scored at 19:12 of the second period on Thursday night. His second goal, at 1:32 of OT, gave the Rangers a 3-2 win over the Sabres.
Anisimov restored the Rangers’ one-goal lead by converting a pretty Brandon Dubinsky feed from behind the net with 47.5 seconds left in the middle period. But Mike Grier tied the game during another melee in the slot with only 2.9 ticks left on the clock, and the two teams exited the ice after 40 minutes of play tied 2-2.

“We scored the second goal with a minute left and they tied it up with two seconds left,” said Gaborik. “It’s kind of a bummer, but we came back. It wasn’t a pretty game. We got the two points and that’s the most important thing.”

For the third time in as many games the Rangers had an apparent goal waved off by the on-ice officials. For the second straight game it was Fedotenko who was victimized by a non-goal call, this one a quick whistle before Fedotenko slid a loose puck past Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth at 4:15 of the third period.

“I am not commenting any more on those things, a win is a win,” Fedotenko said following the game. “I am happy we got the overtime goal and won the game.”

Overtime was set up by a scoreless third period which featured 11 saves for Biron and nine for Enroth. Biron’s most important stop in the final period came with 5:36 to play when he flashed across the crease from right to left to deny a wide-open Jason Pominville.

Biron’s heroics set up Anisimov’s heroics. Anisimov roofed a shot past Enroth 92 seconds into overtime after Fedotenko won a battle for the puck inside the Sabres blueline.

“It was a big win for us after the last two games,” said Anisimov, who now has five goals on the season. “We played hard and deserved to win. And winning at home right now is very important.”

In his first game since suffering the separated shoulder in the Oct. 15 home opener, Gaborik played a regular shift at even strength on a line with Erik Christensen and Alex Frolov, while also playing on the team’s top power play unit.

Gaborik finished with three shots on goal, plus several other shots that were misfired just wide of the net, while playing 18 minutes and 40 seconds.

“My hands have to catch up with my feet,” Gaborik said jokingly following the game. “I haven’t played for three weeks, but I feel pretty good.”

Gaborik, the ill Lundqvist, and their Rangers’ teammates will have two days to rest before they return to action on Sunday afternoon at MSG when the Edmonton Oilers pay a visit to New York. Following that game, the Rangers head to Pittsburgh to face the Penguins on Monday night.
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