He left the series opener early in Buffalo and had to tough it out through Game 2 when another hit to the leg slowed him again. But Rozsival was back on the blue-line for the Rangers on Sunday, and his hard drive found its way into the net in double overtime to give New York a 2-1 victory, shooting life back into the Rangers’ season.
Rozsival got the puck through traffic and off the post behind screened goalie Ryan Miller 16:43 into the second overtime. That gave New York its first win over the Sabres in seven tries this season and ended the Rangers’ longest game in exactly 36 years.
Buffalo still leads the Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-1, but the Rangers can get even with a Game 4 victory Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden.
“Everybody was really tired, I guess,” Rozsival said after logging a game-high, 38 minutes, 16 seconds. “I was just focusing on hitting the puck, and I was lucky enough that I had a lucky shot.”
It was just the type of good fortune the Rangers were seeking after dropping a pair in Buffalo. New York figured it deserved a better fate than to come home down 2-0 against the NHL’s best team in the regular season.
“They have confidence. They have a game underneath their belt. We want to go up and they want to tie it up,” Sabres defenceman Brian Campbell said. “It’s not going to be easy.”
Jaromir Jagr gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the second period, but the Sabres tied it late in the third when Daniel Briere finally took advantage of a slew of Buffalo power plays.
After that, it was a goaltending duel between Henrik Lundqvist and Miller. Lundqvist stopped 38 shots and became a winner when Rozsival scored on the Rangers’ 46th shot.
That was enough to snap the Sabres’ six-game winning streak against the Rangers and their five-game run overall in the playoffs against New York’s Islanders and Rangers.
“It was huge,” Jagr said. “I’m mad about the second one, where we lost in Buffalo. But tonight was important, and we’re back.”
The Rangers have won eight straight and 11 of 12 at home. They will still need to win in Buffalo and find a way to string wins together against the Sabres, who haven’t had a losing streak since a three-game skid in early March.
Each team had chances in the lengthy overtime. New York had three power plays, and Buffalo had two after going 1-for-7 in regulation.
Buffalo almost won it on the shift before Rozsival’s third goal of the playoffs, but Chris Drury – who has ended four post-season games in overtime – was stopped by Lundqvist on a stuff attempt.
Michael Nylander gave Rozsival the puck near the right point, and the defenceman let it fly through traffic – including Jagr in front – and past Miller who looked around after the shot found the net.
“I didn’t get a good look,” Miller said. “It’s a must win for them and they ended up getting the right side of the post.”
Buffalo thought it might’ve ended the game a period earlier. With 54 seconds left in the first overtime, Derek Roy rang a shot off the post and through the crease that brought the red light on for an instant – quieting the already nervous Garden crowd. The period ran out and replays showed the puck never went in.
The Sabres tied it on their seventh power play – and fifth consecutive after the first period – when Briere stepped into a shot from the left circle and drove it past Lundqvist with 7:46 left in regulation as Brendan Shanahan served a questionable cross-checking penalty.
Shanahan was sent off 1:13 earlier after he knocked down Ales Kotalik with a shove in front of the New York bench, drawing vociferous complaints from Shanahan and coach Tom Renney. The Rangers had only two power-play opportunities in regulation.
Buffalo won all four regular-season matchups, three in overtime or shootout. After using a three-goal second period to win 5-2 in the series opener, the Sabres again foiled the Rangers by turning a pair of New York mistakes in the third period of Game 2 into two goals and a 3-2 comeback win.
“We should be confident,” Renney said. “I thought that we should have a level of momentum coming out of Buffalo.”
Jagr scored his third of the playoffs when he cleaned up a loose puck in the crease 33 seconds into the second period. Martin Straka got to a rebound and nudged it back, squeezing the puck between the goalie’s pads and causing it to glide toward the goal line.
Jagr slammed it in the net for his 70th career post-season goal, second to Colorado’s Joe Sakic (82) among active players. That was Jagr’s only chance to celebrate as he made three trips to the penalty box during the first two periods.
It then looked as though Rangers defenceman Karel Rachunek gave New York a 2-0 lead 3:36 into the second.
Marcel Hossa took a pass from Jagr and quickly slid it across the crease to the charging Rachunek. He steered the puck into the right side but did it with his skate as he charged the net. A review ensued and the goal was waved off, the fourth time in this year’s playoffs that replay worked in the Sabres’ favour.
“It has to be a distinct kicking motion,” Renney said. “If that’s distinct then we’re all in trouble.”
Notes: The Sabres have been held scoreless in nine of 26 periods in the playoffs, six in this series. … Seven straight in one year was the Sabres’ longest stretch without playing post-season OT since they matched the team record with nine in 1983. … This was New York’s longest game since April 29, 1971, when Pete Stemkowski scored in triple overtime to beat Chicago.