Henrik Lundqvist stopped Daniel Briere’s shot just short of fully crossing the goal line with 17 seconds left, and the Rangers hung on for a 2-1 victory over the Sabres on Tuesday night to square the Eastern Conference semifinal series after four games.
Both teams had to wait out a lengthy video review for the second straight game.
“What we’re looking for is either confirm what the call is on the ice, or we have to have a conclusive picture of the puck being in the net,” Bob Hall, the supervisor of officials for the series said in a statement. “It’s what we’re looking for in this case because the on-ice ruling was no goal.
“We looked and looked and looked. No replay that we have seen shows it definitely crossing the goal line.”
On Sunday, Rangers defenseman Karel Rachunek lost a goal when league officials in Toronto used a replay to determine he kicked the puck in.
The game went to double overtime, but a major controversy was avoided when the Rangers eventually won.
This time the call went New York’s way.
“I guess it was really close,” Briere said. “I think they misjudged the one last game. The Rangers’ goal should’ve been a goal. For the sake of all, I hope they made the right call because that wouldn’t be good—two games in a row, two critical goals disallowed.”
The best-of-seven matchup now shifts back to Buffalo, where the Sabres—the NHL’s best team in the regular season—took a 2-0 lead. Now they will be feeling the heat from a nervous, title-starved town unwilling to accept anything less than the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Game 5 is Friday night, with Game 6 back in New York on Sunday.
Buffalo picked up the pace right after Ales Kotalik cut the Sabres’ deficit to 2-1 just 33 seconds after Shanahan’s goal. The Sabres stormed for the tying goal during the final 10 minutes and outshot New York 11-4 in the third.
“We played good for 50 minutes, and the last minutes were a headache,” Jagr said. “It was awful. We were lucky we won.”
The pressure is back on the Presidents’ Trophy winners, who have trailed in the third period in every game but the opener. After scoring an NHL-high 308 goals during the season, the Sabres have been held to five in three games following a 5-2 opening win.
All the questions before the series were whether the Rangers could slow down Buffalo’s four fast lines. Now two goals have been enough to win consecutive games.
“In the playoffs there is a lot less chances available and Lundqvist has been really good, also,” Briere said. “We just have to keep crashing and we have to keep going hard the way we did in the third period.”
Lundqvist dived onto his stomach with 17 seconds left and stopped Briere’s stuff attempt with his right pad as the puck slid on the goal line but didn’t fully cross.
“I just felt I was so late,” Lundqvist said. “I read the puck, but I think it bounced a little bit.”
For the first time in five close goal calls in these playoffs, the Sabres didn’t benefit from a video review.
“I believe I’ve seen a replay where it’s in,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, sounding just like New York Islanders coach Ted Nolan in the first round. “We’ve had some good reviews.”
Jagr scored his fourth of these playoffs and 71st in the postseason in the second period. Shanahan doubled New York’s lead in the third.
Kotalik answered quickly after Shanahan’s goal, but it wasn’t enough. Ryan Miller was sharp again in making 26 saves, allowing two goals for the fourth straight game.
The Sabres hadn’t lost consecutive games since dropping three in a row from March 7-10. But the Rangers earned their ninth straight win at Madison Square Garden and 12th in 13 games.
“You are not always going to have things go your way. It’s not always going to be 4-1,” Miller said. “It’s certainly not going to always be that you have the lead. You’re going to have to battle and claw and scratch.
“Nobody said it was going to be easy.”
Shanahan made it 2-0 by showing the patience and poise of a 38-year-old, three-time Stanley Cup champion. He waited for Miller to make his move, and when the goalie dropped to his right side, Shanahan put the puck past his outstretched pads and to make it 2-0.
Before the announcement of Shanahan’s sixth goal of these playoffs and 58th in the postseason, Kotalik scored.
For the second straight game, Jagr and the Rangers took advantage of a penalty in the opening minute of the second period. Jagr, who also scored in Game 3, deflected Michael Nylander’s shot off defenseman Teppo Numminen and past Miller 45 seconds into the frame.
The Sabres had power-play chances in the final 8 1/2 minutes of the period that ended with them still up a man. With 17 seconds remaining in Marcel Hossa’s stick-holding penalty, Rangers defenseman Marek Malik went off for holding Derek Roy.
But the Rangers held off Buffalo, which is 3-for-25 on power plays in the series.
Roy also had a shot ricochet off the right post.
Ruff tried more changes in the third period, when he moved Briere, Buffalo’s leading regular-season scorer, from center to left wing on a line with Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly. Connolly had been playing on the fourth line.
Struggling RW Maxim Afinogenov, Buffalo’s sixth-leading scorer in the regular season, was scratched. He was replaced with rookie Daniel Paille, making his playoff debut. … The Rangers improved to 16-10 in Game 4s when trailing a series 2-1. … The Sabres haven’t been shut out since April 1, 2006, at Toronto.