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Clawing Their Way To Victory

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
The New York Rangers cannot seem to find a way to take two points from the Buffalo Sabres. Three times this season prior to Friday night, Buffalo had walked away from a meeting with their instate rivals the victors, once in regulation and twice in overtime.

The fourth and final meeting between the teams during the regular season wasn't any different. Buffalo came back from a one-goal deficit in the third period, and survived a four-on-three advantage by New York in overtime, to hand the Rangers a 4-3 shootout loss in HSBC Arena.

"We've had some really tight games with them," said co-captain Chris Drury. "They've been exciting games and you're always happy to come out on top."

Daniel Briere was the only player to score during the shootout, as both Ales Kotalik and Maxim Afinogenov were stopped on Buffalo's second and third attempts. Ryan Miller, who made 36 saves through regulation and in overtime, stopped Michael Nylander, league-leading goal scorer Brendan Shanahan, and Petr Prucha to improve to 13-2-2 on the season.

Buffalo charged out of the gate in the first period, but saw their two-goal lead erased by three consecutive goals by the Rangers, who finished the game two-of-five on the man advantage. Both power-play goals came in a 46 second span.

"We didn't get a lot going on [in the second]," said head coach Lindy Ruff, whose team became just the fourth in NHL history to win 20 of their first 25 games. "We made some poor decisions, took some bad penalties and gave them some opportunities on the power play to get back in the game.

"It looked like we thought it was going to be an easy game [after the first period]. We didn't come up ice with a lot of speed and it was more of a two-man or three-man attack than a five-man attack."

New York took just two penalties the entire game, while Buffalo finished with 10 minutes in penalties including a hooking call on Teppo Numminen with 1:34 remaining in the extra frame.

"For whatever reason, we weren't getting calls our way so they were getting some momentum on the power play," said Miller. "We did a good job getting everything pushed to the outside, especially in overtime [on the power play]."

Drury tied the game off a give-and-go with Maxim Afinogenov along the right boards with fewer than 10 minutes to play in regulation. Cutting to the net, Drury got the return pass from the Russian winger, slipped through the crease and beat New York goaltender Kevin Weekes with a backhander inside the far post to even the score 3-3.

"[Brian] Campbell made a great play to get me the puck in the neutral zone," said Drury. "I was coming off the bench, had some speed, dropped the puck to Max and he just got it back to me. I was able to get behind the defense and get to the net."

The goal was Buffalo's first of the game since Campbell beat Weekes with another backhander at 1:50 of the second with a backhand. Jochen Hecht scored the lone first-period goal with a shot parallel to the goal line that banked off Weekes.

"Not every game is going to be textbook or to a script," said Ruff. "You just want to give yourself that chance to get a point."

Michal Rozsival fired a blazing slapshot from the top of the right face-off circle into the top-left corner of the net for his third goal of the season at 15:30 of the second to make the score 2-1 in favor of Buffalo.

Martin Straka, who was injured late in the third period and did not return, one-timed Jaromir Jagr's across-ice pass for his 15th goal of the season, a power-play tally, to tie the game 2-2 at 7:20 of the third.

Collecting his own rebound in front of Miller on another power play, Nylander gave New York their first lead with his 10th goal of the season at 8:06 of the third.
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