Michal Rozsival's aching left knee forced the New York Rangers' best defenseman out of their Stanley Cup playoff series opener in Buffalo, and he gritted his way through Game 2 when another hit to the leg slowed him again.
But Rozsival was back on the blue line for the Rangers yesterday at Madison Square Garden, and his hard drive found its way into the net in the second overtime to give New York a 2-1 victory, bringing the best-of-seven series to that same score, in Buffalo's favor.
Rozsival got the puck through traffic and off the post behind screened goalie Ryan Miller 16 minutes, 43 seconds into the second overtime. That gave the Rangers their first win over the Sabres in seven tries this season, and ended the franchise's longest game in exactly 36 years.
"Everybody was really tired, I guess," Rozsival said after logging a game-high, 38:16 of playing time. "I was just focusing on hitting the puck, and I was lucky enough that I had a lucky shot."
Jaromir Jagr had given 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.
"It was huge," Jagr said. "I'm mad about the second one, where we lost in Buffalo [3-2]. But tonight was important, and we're back."
The Rangers have won eight straight and 11 of 12 at home. The fourth game in the series will be played tomorrow night in New York.
Each team had chances during 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 goal, his third of the playoffs, but Chris Drury, who has ended four postseason games in overtime in his career, was stopped by Lundqvist on a stuff attempt.
Michael Nylander gave Roz-sival the puck near the right point, and the defenseman let it fly through traffic and past Miller, who looked around after the shot found the net.
"I didn't get a good look," he said. "It's a must win for them and they ended up getting the right side of the post."
Buffalo thought it might have ended the game with 54 seconds left in the first overtime. Derek Roy rang a shot off a post and through the crease that brought the red light on for an instant, quieting the nervous Garden crowd. The period ran out and replays showed the puck did not cross the goal line.
This was New York's longest playoff game since April 29, 1971, when Pete Stemkowski scored in triple overtime to beat Chicago.
In another game:
* At Vancouver, Corey Perry scored the go-ahead goal on a power play 7:51 into the third period as the Anaheim Ducks recovered from a double-overtime loss at home in Game 2 with a 3-2 victory over the Canucks.
Francois Beauchemin and Dustin Penner also scored, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 24 saves, including three in the final seconds, as the Ducks took a 2-1 lead in the series.
Special teams were the difference for the Ducks, who killed seven of eight Vancouver power plays - including two lengthy five-on-three disadvantages - and converted two of their four chances at the other end.
Anaheim limited the Canucks to two shots during a two-man advantage for 1:22 early in the third period, and had just killed off Perry's hooking penalty without giving up a shot before scoring the winning goal. With Alexandre Burrows off for shooting the puck out of play, Perry sent a shot through a screen and between the legs of Roberto Luongo.
Markus Naslund and Daniel Sedin scored, and Luongo made 21 saves for the Canucks. *