It was the re-emergence of Artem Anisimov and the 11th- hour performance of Martin Biron rather than the return of Marian Gaborik that helped the Rangers snap a dry spell at Madison Square Garden last night.
Anisimov scored twice, including the winner on a wrister at 1:32 of overtime, as the Rangers beat the Sabres, 3-2. Biron, filling in for Henrik Lundqvist, who reported to the Garden with the flu, made 29 saves against his former team.
"It wasn't hard to get up to play against Buffalo, a team I played with for so many years and I'm friends with them and watch them back home," Biron said. "And with the success we need to have at home here, it was easy to get going for."
The victory was only the third home win in nine games for the Rangers, who finish a four-game homestand Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Anisimov, who hadn't scored in nine games, drove to the net and fell, then grabbed a rebound of Dan Girardi's point shot from between a defender's skate in the slot, spun and whipped a high shot past Jhonas Enroth for the winner.
Rangers coach John Tortorella had hoped that Gaborik, who had missed 12 games with a separated left shoulder, would provide instant offense. "We were a big offensive play from winning a game [against the Caps], we didn't get it done, and that's where he can help us," Tortorella said before the game. "I think we're grinding but you also need to get a skillful goal along the way. I think he brings that and can make a play to make someone else better."
Instead, it was Anisimov with the skilled shot. "I see the puck and shoot top shelf," Anisimov said. "Simple. It's a big win . . . To win at home is so important right now."
"Big goal by Artie. We needed it," said Gaborik, who played 18:40, had three shots on goal and finished minus-1. "The first game's always a tough one, but I felt better than I expected."
At 15:46 of the third, Fedotenko almost gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead. Enroth, on his knees, was collecting the puck on the ice in front of him when Fedotenko slammed his stick into Enroth's paddle and the puck went though the pads and in. But the goal was waved off, with the ruling that a whistle had blown, and Tortorella erupted.
In the loss to the Capitals, the Rangers coughed up three one-goal leads. By the end of the second period, during which the Rangers had just four shots, they had blown two more.
Biron, who played his fourth game of the season, turned away all eight shots in the first. With 14 shots on Enroth, it was the first time in nine games that the Rangers had outshot an opponent in the first period.
The down-low, gritty type of play that the Rangers relied on during Gaborik's absence resulted in the first goal at 14:04 of the first period. Brandon Prust and Michael Sauer battled along the boards and Fedotenko poked it under Enroth during a scramble in the crease. It was Fedotenko's first goal in 10 games.