NEW YORK, N.Y. – Martin Biron had no intention of subbing for top Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t ready to go once he got the late call.
Biron made 29 saves on the shortest of notice and earned his second win of the season when Artem Anisimov scored his second goal of the game 1:32 into overtime to lift New York to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
All signs pointed to this being a day off for the veteran goalie, but Biron was pressed into action when Lundqvist showed up sick.
“He said he wasn’t feeling that great. I didn’t know what that meant,” said Biron, who played for the second time in three games. “It was about a quarter after five, a few minutes after our meeting.
“I was already in game mode. That is part of the job. If you are going to go or not, you have to be ready to go at any time.”
Anisimov netted the winner after he found a loose puck in the slot for a shot past backup goalie Jhonas Enroth.
Ruslan Fedotenko had a goal and assist for the Rangers, whose offence got a big boost when top scorer Marian Gaborik rejoined the lineup after missing 12 games due to a separated shoulder. He didn’t get onto the score sheet, but Gaborik recorded three shots in nearly 19 minutes of ice time.
“We’ve been struggling in our building, so it’s a huge win,” he said. “I haven’t played for three weeks, but I feel pretty good.”
Tyler Ennis and Mike Grier scored for Buffalo, which lost to New York for the second time this season.
The Sabres went to overtime for the third straight game after winning the previous two in shootouts. The Sabres pulled out a 5-4 win at New Jersey on Wednesday night with Enroth in net when Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk lost the puck off his stick without getting off a shot on the final attempt.
Enroth made 25 saves in his fourth appearance in five games in place of reigning Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller, who is sidelined because of a lower body injury.
Buffalo earned five of six points on its three-game road trip. The Sabres are 5-3-2 on the road, but winless at home (0-6-1).
“It’s something to build off of,” Enroth said. “Hopefully we can take how we play on the road back home.”
The Rangers had lost two straight at home and four of five at Madison Square Garden. They appeared to be on a similar path in the third period when Fedotenko had a goal waved off because officials said the whistle was blown before the puck went into the net. Buffalo also earned its second power play with 6:06 left in regulation.
But New York killed it off and has allowed only one goal in 12 short-handed situations in the past four games.
Fedotenko, however, has had a goal waved off in two consecutive games, a point not lost on frustrated Rangers coach John Tortorella.
“I’m not complaining, but it’s a goal,” he said.
Ennis scored the first of Buffalo’s two tying goals of the second period with 4:27 left when he pushed a puck past Biron during a scramble in front. The Sabres were poised to go onto a power play, but Ennis’ fourth of the season and second in two nights wiped out the penalty and made it 1-1.
The Rangers went back in front in a late-period scoring spree when Anisimov scored.
Shortly after Sabres coach Lindy Ruff burned his timeout to give his players a breather after an icing call, Brandon Dubinsky worked the puck behind the Buffalo net and fed a backhanded pass in front. Anisimov was all alone in the slot and fired a shot that squeezed past Enroth with only 47.5 seconds left in the middle frame.
That was the fifth consecutive Rangers goal, over two games, that gave them a one-goal lead, but New York couldn’t protect any of the advantages. The Rangers squandered three one-goal leads on Tuesday in a 5-3 home loss to Washington.
Buffalo got even at 2-all before the period ran out when Grier stuffed in his second of the season with just 2.9 seconds showing on the clock. Rob Niedermayer set up the goal with a pass in front.
“We felt pretty good going into the third,” Sabres forward Thomas Vanek said. “I had a great chance in overtime. That’s hockey. You miss it, they go the other way and score.”
Biron was strong in overtime, as he had been throughout. He stopped Niedermayer on a breakaway right out of the penalty box in the first period.
New York had only four shots in the second despite having a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 39 seconds. Tortorella used his timeout after the second penalty was whistled to give his power-play unit a rest, but it wasn’t enough to produce a goal.
“Our second period stunk,” Tortorella said. “To allow that to happen—score a big goal on them with a minute and then to have them come down … we lost battles.”
Fedotenko staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead with 5:56 left in the first after a couple of passes set him up. Brandon Prust sent the puck from behind the net in front to defenceman Michael Sauer, who then moved the puck into the crease. It hit the skate of Sabres forward Tim Connolly and caromed to Fedotenko, who jammed it past Enroth.
Notes: Rangers D Matt Gilroy replaced injured D Michal Rozsival (shoulder strain) after being a healthy scratch the previous five games and seven times in New York’s first 15. LW Derek Boogaard was a healthy scratch two days after he scored for the first time in 235 games. … Sabres captain D Craig Rivet missed his second straight game because of the flu. RW Drew Stafford sat out for a third game due to an undisclosed upper body injury. … The Rangers are 5-0-1 against the Northeast Division.