for this game

Vanek scores twice as Sabres take early lead vs. Rangers

Apr 26, 2007 - 4:22 AM
BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller reintroduced themselves to the New York Rangers.

Vanek scored a pair of goals and Miller made 32 saves as the Buffalo Sabres rolled to a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Ales Kotalik also scored for Buffalo, which hosts Game Two on Friday.

"Game One can be important, but it's how you follow it up," Miller said. "We have a good chance to make a statement here, and we're going to take our day of rest and prepare for another battle."

"If anything, it's probably a good wake-up call for us," New York's Sean Avery said. "We've seen what happens when we don't do the little things to win games. Trying to win the Stanley Cup, you've got to do these things. If you don't, you're not going to get the job done."

The Sabres, who captured the first Presidents' Trophy in franchise history this campaign, swept the four-game season series against the Rangers. However, all four contests were played prior to December 2, with three going beyond regulation before Buffalo prevailed.

Having a span of more than four months between meetings did nothing to change the trend. After outshooting the Rangers, 15-8, in the first period, the Sabres erupted for three goals during a 4:05 span in the middle session - including two by Vanek - to take a commanding lead.

"From the standpoint of how we attack as a team, we've had stretches during the year when we get one, we get two, sometimes we've gotten three," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said of the scoring spurt. "We've been known, if we can get a couple of quick ones, we can get the third one fairly soon after that. We said, 'Let's keep attacking.'"

With Martin Straka in the penalty box for hooking, Buffalo defenseman Dmitri Kalinin unleashed a slap shot from the right point. Standing in the slot, Vanek redirected the puck past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at 14:19 for his third goal of the postseason and a 1-0 edge.

"I think (Kalinin) was aiming for my stick," Vanek said. "We've been working on that a lot the last two months."

"There was some relief there," Ruff said. "You want to burst (Lundqvist's) bubble. The more saves he makes, the better he feels about himself. A big save is almost like scoring a goal - sometimes that momentum goes the other way."

Kotalik doubled the lead exactly two minutes later. After the Sabres lost a faceoff in their own zone, Adam Mair grabbed the loose puck and raced up ice before passing to Kotalik, who beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot for his first playoff tally.

"(Mair) made a great play in the middle and made a great pass," Kotalik said. "I just hit the corner. I don't know if I could make that shot again. ... It was a big goal for us and a big goal for me to be able to get some confidence."

Vanek capped the outburst - and his first career two-goal effort in the playoffs - with 96 seconds to go in the period, carrying down the left wing and cutting to the slot before beating Lundqvist to the glove side with a wrister.

"We don't want to turn this into a track meet," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "They're too quick and their transition game is excellent. They can score from any number of locations."

Marcel Hossa spoiled Miller's shutout bid midway through the third, putting a one-timer past the stick of the netminder from the left faceoff circle at 10:44 after receiving a feed from near the end line by Michael Nylander.

It took the Sabres just over three minutes to regain their three-goal bulge, as Jason Pominville netted his third of the playoffs with 6:13 left in the period. Driving to the net, the 24-year-old had a centering pass from the left circle by Jochen Hecht carom off his left skate and into the net.

The goal originally was waved off by referee Marc Joannette, but after the play was reviewed, Pominville was credited with his eighth career postseason tally.

Brendan Shanahan got the Rangers within 4-2 with 48 seconds remaining, grabbing a loose puck in the slot and firing it into a vacant net to extend his playoff goal-scoring streak to four games. Nylander picked up his second assist of the game on the play, giving him the postseason lead in points with 10.

The goal was the 57th of Shanahan's playoff career, tying him with Hall of Famer Cam Neely for 34th place on the all-time list.

"We fought back. We obviously didn't blow off the third period," Shanahan said. "We weren't playing to keep it close, we were playing to come back."

Any hopes of a comeback were erased 32 seconds later, when rookie Drew Stafford tallied into an empty net.

Buffalo controlled the play in the first period but was unable to break through against Lundqvist, who finished with 32 saves. The Swede turned aside all 15 shots he faced, including six with the Sabres on the power play.

"We knew it was going to be tough, they're a great team," Lundqvist said. "We need all the guys to play their best. We can't afford to take too many penalties."

Ranked last among the remaining four Eastern Conference teams with the man advantage during the conference quarterfinals, Buffalo went 0-for-4 in the game's first 21 1/2 minutes.

But the Rangers' inability to stay out of the penalty box caught up with them when Vanek cashed in on the Sabres' sixth opportunity of the game.

New York did have its chances in the opening session, but Miller made a huge save on captain Jaromir Jagr 26 seconds into the game and stopped Matt Cullen's tip-in chance at 7:32 to keep the contest scoreless.

"We have a great goalie back there," Vanek said. "They had a chance 30 seconds in, Jagr had a great chance and Miller saved it. Anytime you know you have a goaltender like that, you can do more things up front."

"A very good goalie will make saves look easy," Shanahan said. "He's a very technically sound goalie. Goalies like him don't have to make spectacular saves. We had some really good chances. The first shift of the game, Jagr was in alone on him. He was solid, but I think we could test him more."

The Rangers also had a full two-minute, 5-on-3 power play 6 1/2 minutes into the third but were unable to convert.

"I thought it was a great effort by us to hunker down, battle through," Miller said of the penalty kill. "I thought that was a big point in the game. It was 3-0, but we want to show we're going to work hard on every aspect."

New York, which has won just 15 of its 53 postseason series openers on the road, welcomed Karel Rachunek back to the lineup after the defenseman missed the final 12 games of the regular season and the entire quarterfinal series against Atlanta with a sprained MCL.

However, the Rangers lost the services of blue-liner Michal Rozsival, who suffered a leg injury midway through the second period and did not return.

"I suppose it adds to our difficulty," Renney said. "I don't think it was the turning point. (But) it certainly didn't help our cause."








  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    NY RANGERS 0 0 2 2
    BUFFALO 0 3 2 5 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 3 (DMITRI KALININ, DEREK ROY) 14:19
    BUF - ALES KOTALIK 1 (ADAM MAIR) 16:19
    BUF - THOMAS VANEK 4 (HENRIK TALLINDER, TEPPO NUMMINEN)
    18:24
    3RD PRD: NYR - MARCEL HOSSA 2

    Apr 25 9:49 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL NY RANGERS 2
    BUFFALO 5
    3RD PRD: BUF - (EN) DREW STAFFORD 2 (DAINIUS ZUBRUS, TONI LYDMAN)
    19:44

    Rangers vs. SabresApr 25 9:49 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL NY RANGERS 2
    BUFFALO 4
    3RD PRD: NYR - (PP) BRENDAN SHANAHAN 4 (MICHAEL NYLANDER, MATT CULLEN)
    19:12

    Rangers vs. SabresApr 25 9:47 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL NY RANGERS 1
    BUFFALO 4
    3RD PRD: BUF - JASON POMINVILLE 3 (JOCHEN HECHT, DANIEL BRIERE) 13:47

    Rangers vs. SabresApr 25 9:37 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL NY RANGERS 1
    BUFFALO 3
    3RD PRD: NYR - MARCEL HOSSA 2 (MICHAEL NYLANDER, MAREK MALIK) 10:44

    Rangers vs. SabresApr 25 9:24 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    NY RANGERS 0 0 0
    BUFFALO 0 3 3 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    2ND PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 3 (DMITRI KALININ, DEREK ROY) 14:19
    BUF - ALES KOTALIK 1 (ADAM MAIR) 16:19
    BUF - THOMAS VANEK 4 (HENRIK TALLINDER, TEPPO NUMMINEN)
    18:24
    SHOTS ON GOAL:

    Apr 25 8:47 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL NY RANGERS 0
    BUFFALO 3
    2ND PRD: BUF - THOMAS VANEK 4 (HENRIK TALLINDER, TEPPO NUMMINEN) 18:24

    Rangers vs. SabresApr 25 8:45 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL NY RANGERS 0
    BUFFALO 2
    2ND PRD: BUF - ALES KOTALIK 1 (ADAM MAIR) 16:19

    Rangers vs. SabresApr 25 8:42 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL NY RANGERS 0
    BUFFALO 1
    2ND PRD: BUF - (PP) THOMAS VANEK 3 (DMITRI KALININ, DEREK ROY) 14:19

    Rangers vs. SabresApr 25 8:35 PM


  • PLAYOFFS
    NHL END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    NY RANGERS 0 0
    BUFFALO 0 0 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: NONE
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    NYR 8 8
    BUF 15 15
    GOALIES: NYR - HENRIK LUNDQVIST
    BUF - RYAN MILLER

    Apr 25 7:49 PM