BUFFALO, N.Y. – Sean Avery scored with 5:05 remaining, lifting the New York Rangers to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday in a game between two teams battling for playoff contention.
Avery and Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and assist each, while Jaromir Jagr and Nigel Dawes also scored for the Rangers, who moved two points ahead of the Sabres in the Eastern Conference standings. Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves in helping the Rangers bounce back after squandering a 5-0 lead in a 6-5 shootout loss at Montreal on Tuesday.
The Rangers, Sabres and Boston began the day tied, holding the East’s final three playoff berths.
Buffalo’s Ales Kotalik enjoyed his second consecutive two-goal game and Jason Pominville also scored for the Sabres, who lost their third straight meeting to the Rangers, second in a week following a 5-1 loss at Madison Square Garden last Saturday. The Sabres also dropped to 10-3-2 in their past 15 games.
Chris Drury had an assist on Dawes’ goal, after receiving a cool reception in his first game in Buffalo since the Sabres former co-captain signed with the Rangers in July. A loud “Boo!” went up when Drury was announced as a starter, and he was booed each time he touched the puck.
Avery’s goal came after Kotalik’s dreadful giveaway in his own zone. Standing at the side board, Kotalik’s blind backhand pass into the middle went directly to New York’s Brendan Shanahan, who fanned on his shot from the high slot.
The puck dribbled to the bottom of the left circle, where Avery flipped it into the open side after goalie Ryan Miller committed to stopping Shanahan.
The Sabres rallied from a 2-1 deficit when Pominville, with a one-timer from the slot, and Kotalik, beating Henrik Lundqvist through the legs, scored six minutes apart in the second period.
The Rangers tied it 3-3 at the 9:15 mark of the period, 34 seconds after Kotalik’s goal, when Dubinsky capped a mad scramble in front of the Sabres net.
Notes: Following the morning skate, Drury noted the two new banners – Presidents’ Trophy and Northeast Division champions – hanging from the rafters, which the former Sabres co-captain played a role in landing. “I always wondered if they would do that or not. It was a pretty fun year last year, so it was pretty neat to see,” Drury said. … Rangers D Paul Mara did not return after sustaining a head injury three minutes into the game. Mara was levelled by Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta in the Rangers zone by a clean check. The Sabres, in the third period, showed Kaleta’s hit on their video scoreboard as part of their “Hit of the Game” promotion, drawing cheers from the crowd.