May 5, 2007
by Brian Wheeler
The Buffalo Sabres are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season and will square off with Northeast Division rivals, the Ottawa Senators.
The Sabres closed out their best-of-seven series against the New York Rangers in the same fashion in which they opened it, scoring in bunches. Buffalo put three goals past netminder Henrik Lundqvist in the span of 2:20 and tacked on a fourth six minutes later in the second period on their way to a 5-4 victory in Game Six and a 4-2 series win.
"I haven't seen [the Senators] really play a bad game," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "We need to play like we did these last two games and it should be one hell of a series."
Goaltending battles were the norm for the first five games between the Buffalo and New York, making the Sabres four goal explosion in the second all the more uncharacteristic for the series. Jochen Hecht
couldn't have picked a better time to snap out of his 18-game goal drought. Hecht scored a pair of goals, including the game winner, his first since Mar. 28.
Chris Drury finished with a goal and an assist, while Daniel Briere added three assists.
Dmitri Kalinin and Jason Pominville
each as netted goals for Buffalo in the second period. Dainius Zubrus recorded a pair of helpers.
"We tried the same things and talked about the same things," said Ruff of the Sabres mode of attack against the Rangers. "Pucks it holes. We didn't have a lot of luck our previous games.
"Some guys made some nice shots and we got some good redirections."
Garnering momentum in the opening period with a pair of fluid power plays, the Sabres fell behind 1-0 with just three minutes remaining despite out shooting New York 11-8.
Ales Kotalik's clearing attempt was corralled along the boards by Martin Straka and slipped back to Paul Mara, who found Michael Nylander at the right post with an across-ice feed.
The six-foot-one, 195-pound center waited for Miller to commit before popping a backhander into the top half of the net to record his first goal of the series and fifth of the playoffs at 17:10.
Less than two minutes into the second, Kalinin started the Buffalo stampede.
Receiving a drop pass at the blueline from Ales Kotalik, six-foot-three, 206-pound defenseman ripped a slapshot that deflected off a diving Nigel Dawes and caromed over Lundqvist's left shoulder to make the score 1-1 at 1:29.
The change in trajectory fooled Lundqvist and produced Kalinin's second goal of the playoffs, first of the series.
"You think that you've got to catch a break sooner or later," said Ruff. "I don't think anybody would have predicted nine goals in this afternoon's game, but all of a sudden the floodgates opened up."
A quick, one-timer from the slot by Pominville gave Buffalo their first lead.
Fighting for a puck in the corner, Adam Mair turned a slung a feed to the right winger, who fired into the top-left corner of the net for his fourth of the playoffs, second of the series and a 2-1 Sabres lead at 2:53.
Converting on 19.2 percent of their power plays entering the game, New York tied the score 2-2 and momentarily paused the Sabres' onslaught on their first man advantage.
Paul Mara fired a slapshot from the right point that found its way through traffic and just inside the left post to tie the game 2-2 at 4:40.
Hecht's first goal of the night pushed Buffalo ahead, 3-2. On a three-on-two rush, Hecht received an across-ice feed from Drury and snapped a quick wristshot into the top-right corner of the net for his second point of the playoffs at 7:41 of the second.
Hecht's first point during post-season play came in Game One against the Rangers on Jason Pominville
's third period goal.
On their third power play of the game, Briere collected Zubrus' rebound at the left post, cut behind the net and slipped a pass out front to Drury, who one-timed the puck into the back of the net for his seventh goal of the playoffs, third of the series and a 4-2 Buffalo lead at 11:15 of the middle frame.
"You never feel comfortable," said Ruff, whose team is a perfect 46-0 during the regular season and playoffs when gaining a two goal lead. "With the number of calls there are in the game now, we know that we can play good defense but you still can get beat in a lot of different ways."
Jaromir Jagr backhanded Straka's rebound past Ryan Miller
to score New York's second power play goal of the game five minutes into the final frame.
"As soon as you get down by two, you become the aggressor," said Ruff. "Your defense becomes involved, are pinching, and you're taking more chances."
Hecht redirected Briere's wristshot from the blueline with a backhander to expand Buffalo's lead to a pair, 5-3, with less than six minutes remaining in regulation.
"It was a really hard fought series," said Miller, who finished with 32 saves. "To come into this building and hold on late in the game is big for us."
New York cut Buffalo's lead in half with their third power-play goal of the game.
Nylander snapped a wristshot into the top-right corner of the net for his second of the night and sixth of the playoffs at 17:09 of the final frame.
The Rangers converted on three of four power plays, while Buffalo scored on one of their four.
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Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.