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Nedved's Trick Trumps Peca

Petr Nedved's hat trick for the New York Rangers on Friday night was a lot more effective than the one by Buffalo Sabres captain Michael Peca.

But only because Nedved got some help from his friends as the Rangers defeated the Sabres 6-3 in a showdown for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers extended their lead over Buffalo to three points in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot. The clubs play again in New York on Wednesday.

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  • "It was a gritty win," said Rangers coach John Muckler. "We fought through it, worked hard, and found a way to win."

    "It's nice to come here and win a four-point game."

    The Rangers were 0-8-4 against Buffalo since their last victory, Dec. 13, 1996.

    Alexandre Daigle broke a 3-3 tie early in the third period, while Theo Fleury and Michael York added power-play goals for New York. Mike Richter, returning from a three-game absence due to a sprained knee, made 22 saves.

    Buffalo's Dominik Hasek stopped 23 shots in his first loss (4-1-3) since returning from a 40-game absence with a groin injury.

    "I didn't think Hasek was playing that well," Muckler said. "I don't know if he's a little bit sore, but he wasn't moving real well. We thought if we got a lot pucks on the net, we might have a good chance."

    Hasek couldn't argue with that assessment.

    "I didn't play well," said Hasek. "There's nothing good I can say about this game. This was probably the most important game othe season, and I'm very disappointed."

    The Sabres had a 3-1 lead at 5:14 of the second period behind Peca's hat trick, but squandered a two-goal lead for the third time this season.

    "Obviously we feel we're in a pretty good positon," said Peca. "We took the penalty killing for granted."

    Added Hasek, "We controlled the game, but we played badly."

    York and Nedved scored power-play goals 1:56 apart in the second period to tie the game at 3. York netted his 20th, poking in a rebound after Hasek made a stop on a wraparound by Adam Graves. Nedved scored his 19th on a one-timer, streaking down the left wing and taking a nice cross-ice pass from Kim Johnsson.

    Daigle scored the winner 5:21 into the third period. He was alone in the slot and one-timed a shot over Hasek's left shoulder after a pass from the corner by John MacLean.

    Nedved added insurance goals with 5:59 remaining and into an empty net with 1:11 to go.

    "I'm happy that I got it," said Nedved, who notched the fifth hat trick of his career and third this season. "But there are more important stakes at this stage. We're going for the playoffs, and nobody cares if I score a hat trick."

    Peca's hat trick was his first in the NHL. It was just the 11th time in 146 instances that Buffalo lost while one of its players had a hat trick.

    "Obviously it's a good accomplishment," said Peca. "But I've said since the beginning of the season when I wasn't scoring that it's all about winning hockey games."

    He opened the scoring 3:41 into the game, one-timing a shot from the slot after a precise pass by Michal Grosek from beside the net. He finished his hat trick early in the second period with another one-timer one minute into the frame, and a wraparound goal at 5:14.

    Fleury made it 1-1 with 11 seconds remaining in the first. His swipe at a rebound got past Hasek, and came during a scramble after the Buffalo goaltender made an oustanding stop on York. It was Fleury's first power-play score of his 14 goals this season.

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