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Friday, March 23, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Sabres 4, Rangers 1

By Katie Strang



What it means: Drew Stafford finished with two goals and an assist as the Sabres topped the Rangers 4-1 to stave off a series sweep and keep their remarkable five-week run rolling. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller made 26 saves as Buffalo improved to 12-2-3 since Feb. 19. Meanwhile, the Rangers closed out their seven-game homestand at Madison Square Garden with a loss and witnessed their slim lead in the standings put in jeopardy once again. The Blueshirts remain only one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and could fall to the fourth seed this weekend.

Rough night: The Sabres tallied twice in the second period and Rangers forward John Mitchell was involved on both goals. Mitchell inadvertently gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead in the second period, kicking the puck past teammate Henrik Lundqvist for the game’s first goal. Buffalo’s Travis Turnbull, who flipped the blind back-pass in front before he was crushed into the end-boards, was awarded his first NHL goal on the play. It wasn’t Mitchell’s only cringe-worthy moment of the game, either. Later in the period, the 27-year-old turned the puck over, a giveaway that resulted in a Buffalo goal at the other end and a 2-1 Sabres lead. Mitchell was benched for the rest of the game.

Boyle breaks through: Snakebitten center Brian Boyle tallied his second goal in 21 games to tie the game midway through the second period. Boyle buried Artem Anisimov's feed in front for his 7th of the season. Rookie defenseman Tim Erixon picked up a secondary assist on the play to record his first NHL point.

Save of the game: Lundqvist made a phenomenal save during a stingy first period, denying Sabres forward Stafford on a rush with 4:44 to play. Lundqvist swiveled from the left post to stop Stafford’s tip-in attempt with his left pad, preserving a scoreless tie. Stafford scored later in the game, however, converting on a 3-on-1 rush to reclaim the Sabres lead at 13:43 of the second.

Tough break: Less than two weeks after being recalled from the minors, Mats Zuccarello was forced from the game with a broken left wrist. The diminutive Norwegian forward, who had two goals in his last three games entering Fridays match, suffered the injury after blocking Jordan Leopold’s shot 8:48 into play. He is out indefinitely, according to a team spokesperson.

Up Next: Rangers vs. Maple Leafs, Saturday at 7 p.m.