Sabres beat Rangers to advance to Eastern Conference finals

May 7, 2007 - 12:41 AM By PA SportsTicker

The Buffalo Sabres picked the right time to figure out Henrik Lundqvist.

Jochen Hecht snapped out of a prolonged slump by scoring twice as the Sabres advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers in Game Six on Sunday afternoon.

Daniel Briere had three assists and Chris Drury had a goal and set up another tally for the top-seeded Sabres, who will meet the fourth-seeded Ottawa Senators for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Buffalo beat Ottawa in five games in last season's conference semis.

The Presidents' Trophy winner during the regular season, the Sabres led the league with 308 goals during the regular season but had struggled to solve Lundqvist, managing three goals in the previous three games.

But the Sabres erupted for four goals in just over 11 minutes of the second period against the Swedish netminder.

Leading the way for the Sabres was Hecht, who had held without a goal in his previous 10 postseason games. He had not scored in 16 games overall dating to March 28 against New Jersey.

"I was frustrated. But tonight I was over that point where I was frustrated and I was going out there and trying to play good, creating chances," Hecht said. "I didn't think about it tonight and maybe that's the reason why it finally went in."

Hecht rifled a high wrist shot past Lundqvist from the edge of the right faceoff circle at 7:41 of the second period off a 3-on-2, giving the Sabres a 3-2 lead.

"He's so good at taking the bottom part of the net away and we finally tonight got the shots up and they went in," Hecht said.

Drury, who scored perhaps the Sabres' biggest goal of the season in Game Five when he tallied with eight seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, beat Lundqvist off a scramble at 11:15 of the middle session for a 4-2 advantage.

"We just wanted to keep getting shots," said Drury, who has 42 career postseason goals. "If we got a good 30 to 35 shots, we liked our chances. In the first period, he made some great saves. We knew if we kept up like that we would get our breaks."

Briere said the Sabres kept it simple in their approach to solve Lundqvist.

"The only thing we told ourselves that we could do is to keep throwing pucks at the net," Briere said. "Obviously the plan from Game One was to try and shoot high on (Lundqvist). We were hoping at some point that the puck was going to find the back of the net."

Lundqvist finished with 24 saves in his worst game of the series.

"It is tough to realize the season is over," he said. "It was a weird game today. The puck bounced all over the place. Three of their goals were deflections. Two were from our guys and one was from them. Obviously the loss in Game Five was huge for this series. We still felt good coming into this game and I think we played well but we just came up short."

Michael Nylander scored twice for the sixth-seeded Rangers, who lost for the first time in five games this postseason at Madison Square Garden.

"It was odd-man rushes (that cost us the series)," said Rangers star right wing Jaromir Jagr, who scored early in the third period. "We said that all series long. We just can't give it to them. You have to be careful. We didn't lose it, we just gave it to them. They are a great team but they aren't better."

On Monday, the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings seek a spot in the Western Conference finals when they visit the fifth-seeded San Jose Sharks in Game Six.

The second-seeded Anaheim Ducks already have advanced to the West finals.






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