April 29, 2007
by Brian Wheeler
The New York Rangers cut the Buffalo Sabres lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in half with a victory in a marathon Game Three at Madison Square Garden.
Michal Rozsival fired a blistering slapshot just inside the right post to give New York the 2-1 victory after more than 96 minutes of hockey on Sunday afternoon, which turned to night by the end of the four hours and five minute contest.
The overtime winner in the second extra frame decreased Buffalo lead to two game to one in the best-of-seven series. Game Four will be Tuesday in New York (Versus, 7 p.m.).
"It was pretty hard fought both ways; we certainly had our chances," said co-captain Chris Drury. "They obviously got one that went in and it's tough to take right now."
Buffalo could be haunted by its missed opportunities, including a slapshot by Derek Roy
that rang off the right post with 53 seconds left in the first overtime and eight unproductive power plays.
"Like we said at the start of the series, it's going to be a battle," said Drury. "They have a lot of great players, a great goalie, and they play well at home. Nothings really changed. If anything, obviously, we've got to play better.
"When we get chances, especially on the PP, we've got to put them in the back of the net."
The two netminders at either end of the ice put on a longevity clinic. Ryan Miller
turned away 44 shots, while Henrik Lundqvist countered with 38.
Jaromir Jagr's third of the playoffs, first of the series, came less than a minute into the second period and gave New York a 1-0 lead. The goal was scored by the officials as even strength, but the Ranger's captain beat Miller seconds after Henrik Tallinder exited the penalty box from a continued infraction from the first period, benefiting from the scattered defense.
The Sabres special teams, on the other hand, were two faced. Briere did score Buffalo's lone goal with the man advantage, but the unit failed to convert on their other eight opportunities, including two in overtime.
The penalty kill was perfect. Buffalo held strong in three overtime power plays for New York, two in succession, and five overall in the game.
"Power plays and penalty killing are tough right now," said Ruff. "We had some good power plays, and I thought we had some poor ones. We had a couple where we did everything but score. But part of it is that you need good saves, and part of it is that you need a break every now and again."
Goalless in the opening two games of the series, Jagr finally found the answer to Miller's puzzle.
Firing a shot from the slot, Jagr crashed the net and stuffed his own rebound, which trickled through the goaltender's pads, into the back of the net to give New York the 1-0 lead just 33 seconds into the second.
"We knew he was going to come home and work like crazy," said Drury of Jagr. "He takes a lot of pride in his game and he's not one of the best players in the world for nothing."
Toronto erased a two-goal lead for New York, disallowing Karel Ranchunek's first goal of the post-season at 3:36 of the second. The lengthy, four-minute review opened the door for Buffalo to regain momentum following a up-and-down first period that saw them find the net just five times.
"[The disallowed goal] may have scared us into playing better," said Drury. "They said 'no goal' and it certainly energized us."
Buffalo tied the game with their seventh power play of the night just eight minutes later.
Briere slipped into the slot from the halfwall and fired a slapshot through traffic to record his first of the series and second goal with the man advantage in the playoffs at 12:16 of the third.