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Lundqvist's 36 saves help Rangers top Sabres, 2-1

Drew Stafford #21 and Jason Pominville #29 of

Drew Stafford #21 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Buffalo Sabres try to get a shot off after Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers makes a save. (December 5, 2009) Credit: Getty Images

BUFFALO - This was unfamiliar territory for the Rangers: clinging to a one-goal lead heading into the third period.

Henrik Lundqvist, who had allowed at least three goals in six of his previous eight games, had made Chris Higgins' sixth goal of the season, at 17:31 of the first period, stand up into the third period.

Then Ryan Callahan ducked under a check and fired Sean Avery's rebound past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller with 6:16 left in regulation, giving the Rangers a two-goal lead. It turned out to be just enough as the Rangers held on to defeat the Sabres, 2-1, last night.

"I have to play better than I have been," Lundqvist said. "The technical part was there [tonight] . . . It feels good to win on the road. Now we have to build on this."

With 58.1 seconds left and with an extra attacker, Jason Pominville spoiled Lundqvist's bid for his second shutout of the season. Pominville's shot came almost immediately after Brian Boyle's shot from the slot toward an empty net hit the post. The Rangers then held off a last-minute flurry and snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We played a solid 60 minutes for the first time in a long time," said Callahan, who scored his fifth goal of the season.

Perhaps Lundqvist's most critical stop came at the midway point of the third period when Drew Stafford completed a rink-length rush by beating Michael Del Zotto, but Lundqvist diverted Stafford's backhand in front to preserve the 1-0 lead.

But the Rangers, who competed for pucks all night, killed three Sabres power plays and walked a tightrope in the third. Vinny Prospal tripped Jochen Hecht at 5:04, and Lundqvist dived and smothered Pominville's shot in the scrum with his left arm; then, while down, he absorbed a rebound by Stafford. Lundqvist turned away 15 shots in the final 20 minutes and finished with 36 saves.

Higgins' goal came after the Sabres applied pressure with 10 of the previous 12 shots. Marian Gaborik saucered a pass from the right boards inside the Buffalo zone to Higgins on the left side, and the Long Island product broke a 10-game goal drought. Higgins had gone 14 games without a goal to start the season.

Artem Anisimov, who beat Miller on the far side with a low wrister at 9:11 but hit the post, had the secondary assist.

The victory snapped a three-game losing streak by the Rangers, who will face Detroit at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.

"We have to start with one win to get on a winning streak," John Tortorella said. "This is a tough building and a very good team we played against, so we'll take this."

Notes & quotes: Ales Kotalik, who was on the starting line in his return to Buffalo - he played for the Sabres for almost seven years - was pointless . . . Enver Lisin, who was scratched Monday and dressed but didn't play Nov. 28, skated on the fourth line . . . Aaron Voros was a healthy scratch for the second time in four games . . . Ilkka Heikinen made his NHL debut and Erik Christensen made his Rangers debut . . . Rookie goalie Chad Johnson dressed as a backup.

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