Friday, April 11, 2014
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Rangers Clinch Home Ice In First Round

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[April 11, 2014]  NEW YORK  It most assuredly was not a work of art.

But the New York Rangers will take the result just the same.

"I'm happy," center Brad Richards said, a few minutes after left winger Rick Nash broke a tie with 1:39 left in regulation to lead the New York Rangers to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

"We are confident that we have played really big teams, we've handled every aspect of the game and we know we can play with them."

Left winger Benoit Pouliot also scored for New York, which improved to 45-31-5 and clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs with Philadelphia's 4-2 regulation loss to Tampa Bay.

The Metropolitan Division second seed, the Rangers will play Philadelphia or Columbus in the first round. The Flyers and Blue Jackets each have two games remaining.

"The last month, month and a half, we have played well and pretty consistent," defenseman Marc Staal said. "Obviously we go into every game expecting to win and we have the confidence to do that.

"Hopefully we carry that momentum through the playoffs."


While the Rangers are preparing for the playoffs, the Sabres are readying themselves for June's draft. Buffalo dropped to 21-50-9 despite goaltender Matt Hackett having stopped 28 of 30 shots. Right winger Drew Stafford scored the Sabres' goal.

"Matt Hackett, I thought he played a real strong game," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "He kept us in the game and then unfortunately there was a slow line change for that winning goal."

Buffalo broke through when Stafford potted his 16th goal of the season 9:06 into the second period. He had gotten position on Staal and deflected Sabres defenseman Mike Weber's point shot past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 23 saves.

Somehow, in a period in which they were outshot 18-1, the Sabres led entirely because of Hackett.

Then, 31 seconds before the period ended, Pouliot wired a laser that Hackett could not stop and the score was tied 1-1. It remained that way until Nash's goal gave New York its only lead of the game.

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"I thought we played better in the second (period)," Rangers coach Alain Vigneualt said. "We game them one chance and one shot; we had quite a few and were able to (tie) it up in the last minute of the (period). In the third we just found a way. We killed two penalties (and Rick Nash) got us a big goal and two points in the end."

New York finished with a 30-24 advantage in shots on goal.

The Rangers won the series 3-0.

Neither team scored on the power play. New York went 0-for-4 and Buffalo was 0-for-2.

NOTES: Buffalo traveled five goaltenders  Jhonas Enroth, Matt Hackett, Michal Neuvirth, Andrey Makarov and Nathan Lieuwen  to New York for the game. ... The game was the third and final meeting of the regular season between the Eastern Conference rivals. New York won the first two games, 2-0 on Oct. 31 and 3-1 on Dec. 5. ... Rangers coach Alain Vigneualt would not characterize the 2013-14 season as satisfying for C Brad Richards, who has 20 goals in 80 games after being scratched by since-fired coach John Tortorella for the final two games of their five-game Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Boston Bruins last May. "I think he's turned the page on last year," Vigneault said. "I'm pretty sure he's telling you that, too. He's focused on coming here and having a real good season, being a real good leader on this team, and that's what he's done for us."

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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