Rally lifts Sabres past Rangers

Associated Press • May 5, 2007 at 1:21 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Benched one game, the overtime star the next: Maxim Afinogenov sure knows how to make up for miscues.

Afinogenov scored a power-play goal 4:39 into overtime to cap Buffalo's come-from-behind 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, moving the Sabres within a win of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Definitely happy," Afinogenov said. "We're up right now. It's a happy day for us."

Leave it to co-captain Chris Drury - who forced overtime by scoring with under 8 seconds remaining - to put Afinogenov's performance into perspective.

"It's a great story, the highs and lows of playoff hockey," Drury said. "He's pretty down the other night as we all were and comes back with obviously a huge goal."

Buffalo rebounded from two straight 2-1 losses to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes in New York on Sunday. And the top-seeded Sabres were rewarded for producing their most complete game of the postseason by finally finding a way to beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Drury's goal, off a rebound in front, came on Buffalo's 37th shot. Afinogenov's slap shot from inside the blue line sneaked through the goalie's legs as teammate Thomas Vanek provided a screen in front.

The Rangers were outshot 40-23, but took a 1-0 lead when Martin Straka scored with 3:19 left in regulation.

"That hurts," Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr said. "There's no question about it. That's probably the toughest for me in five years."

It's now the Rangers turn to respond in a series in which the home team has won each game.

"It's a tough loss, plain and simple," coach Tom Renney said. "We weren't close to being the better team on the ice tonight. It was close for one reason, and that was our goaltender."

Lundqvist was spectacular in frustrating a Sabres team that had scored an NHL-leading 308 goals.

He foiled Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere on one-timers twice in the first period.

Lundqvist's most impressive save came eight minutes into the third period when he got his blocker up to stop Tim Connolly's hard snap shot from the slot. He then quickly covered the rebound before Ales Kotalik could get to it.

Miller was sharp, too, in stopping 22 shots. His best saves came in overtime when he blocked Brendan Shanahan's redirection from in close during a Rangers power play at 1:18. A minute later, Miller snagged Karel Rachunek's blast from the left point.

The Rangers went 0-for-7 on the power play. Five of their nine goals this series have come during an advantage. The Rangers have lost five straight at Buffalo, including two in the regular season.

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