NEW YORK (AP)—In the midst of their longest road-trip of the season, the Buffalo Sabres needed a victory.
Ales Kotalik provided the win, scoring 1:53 into the third period to lift Buffalo over New York 2-1 and pull the Sabres into a tie with the Rangers for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. It also evened Buffalo’s record at 2-2 during the six-game trip.
“We needed this win tonight after losing the last two games in Calgary and Vancouver,” said goaltender Ryan Miller, who stopped 23 shots while improving his record to 14-7-0. “It’s getting to that time of the year, we’ve played 50 games and once we hit that Olympic break there won’t be much time left before the playoffs.”
Thomas Vanek gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 11:13 of the first period. Lundqvist stopped Kotalik’s slap shot from the left point, but lost sight of the rebound long enough for Vanek to chip the puck high to the glove side for his 13th goal.
“I didn’t see the puck at all,” Lundqvist admitted. “It just hit me, I was looking for it, and I almost got it, but it hit my glove and went in. I think that they were good on the power play, they got a lot of traffic in front of me. It was hard to see pucks and I really had to work hard to see shots.”
Lundqvist prevented the Sabres from adding to that lead in the final minute of the period when he stopped Maxim Afinogenov on a breakaway with a deft poke check as Afinogenov tried to deke across the goalmouth.
“We totally dominated the game,” asserted Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff. “If it wasn’t for their goaltending in the first period they should have been down 5-0.”
Jaromir Jagr’s 30th goal of the season made it 1-1 at 6:55 of the second period. With the Rangers on the power play Jagr took a pass from Fedor Tyutin and wristed a shot from the slot that Miller could only get a piece of.
Jagr has now scored 30 goals in 14 consecutive seasons.
“To lose a player like that, because he wants to go low and cut his knees out, that’s a joke,” said Ruff, who predicted Connolly could be out 6-to-8 weeks.
Buffalo forward J.P. Dumont returned to the lineup after missing 10 weeks following sports hernia surgery. … It was the 400th game of Dumont’s career. Dumont has scored more goals against the Rangers (11) than any other team. … New York forward Marcel Hossa was scratched after suffering a facial injury Jan. 21 at Boston and is listed as day-to-day. … Lundqvist made his fourth consecutive start after being named NHL Defensive Player of the Week Monday. … The Rangers sent C Jeff Taffe back to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for minor-league forward Martin Sonnenberg.