Sabres keeping playoff hopes alive

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 23, 2012
Travis Turnbull scored his first NHL goal, with some help from the Rangers, and the Buffalo Sabres earned another big win in their playoff quest by beating New York 4-1 on Friday night. Drew Stafford had goals in the second and third periods, Tyler Ennis added one in the third, and Ryan Miller made 26 saves for Buffalo, which is 12-2-4 in its last 18 games. The Sabres began the night in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point below the postseason cutoff. The Rangers missed a chance to tie St. Louis atop the overall NHL standings, and now are in a precarious position in the East. They still lead Pittsburgh by one point, but the Rangers have only eight games remaining, compared to nine for the surging Penguins. New York went 4-3 on its seven-game homestand and failed to complete a four-game season sweep of Buffalo. The Rangers will play their next three on the road, starting Saturday at Toronto. Brian Boyle scored in the second for the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves. New York nearly tied it multiple times in the third period, with its best chance coming with under 7 minutes remaining when Buffalo's Christian Ehrhoff and Derek Roy laid out in the crease to assist Miller in keeping the puck out of the net. Just seconds later, Ennis fired a shot that deflected in off Lundqvist to make it 3-1 with six minutes left. The lead grew to three goals when Stafford scored again at 16:09. The Rangers thought they had tied it 2-2 moments earlier, but Brandon Dubinsky's goal was waved off because the whistle had already blown It was a rough second period for Rangers forward John Mitchell, who had a direct hand - and skate - in Buffalo's two goals. New York defenseman Stu Bickel landed a crushing hit on Turnbull behind the Rangers net, but the Sabres forward - playing in his second NHL game - was able to get his stick on the loose puck enough to nudge it in front with his backhand. Mitchell was moving toward the crease when he made a kicking motion that knocked the puck in the net to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead 3:14 into the second period. Referee Kevin Pollock picked up the puck after it had been swept out of the net, tossed it to Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera, who flipped it to someone on the Sabres bench for safe keeping. Turnbull is the 29th player to score for the Sabres this season, one shy of tying the team record. New York got even at 9:32 on Boyle's seventh goal of the season, but another mistake by Mitchell led to another Sabres score. Mitchell carried the puck inside the Buffalo zone and tried to skate deeper in the Sabres end, when he got stripped of the puck by the backchecking Marcus Foligno. The quick Sabres suddenly had a 3-on-1 rush going the other way. Foligno sent a pass to Ennis, who then fed it to Stafford for a rising drive from the right side that sailed over Lundqvist's shoulder with 6:17 left in the second. Stafford has been a key cog in the Sabres' recent surge toward a playoff spot. He has three goals and seven assists in the past six games. Boyle is hoping that he is regaining his scoring touch. After going 15 games without a goal, the 6-foot-7 seven forward has two in seven games. Boyle started this one with a faceoff win in the Sabres end, and then went to the net. Artem Anisimov dug the puck out of the corner and fed it to Boyle in front for a slam shot past Miller. NOTES: The Rangers lost forward Mats Zuccarello in the first period when he was struck by a puck and broke his wrist. ... Rangers D Tim Erixon earned his first NHL point in his 17th game - all the season - by assisting on Boyle's goal. ... Columbus leads the NHL with goals from 30 players this season. The Sabres has had goals from 30 players three times, the most recent during the 1991-92 season.
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