- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- Coach John Tortorella predicted that Marian Gaborik's return to the ice Thursday night would give the Rangers a psychological lift.
And the coach was right.
But in the realest sense, the Rangers were lifted by a player who never expected to set foot on the ice Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.
That would be backup goalie Marty Biron, who found out about 90 minutes before the opening faceoff that he was going to fill in for Henrik Lundqvist after the starting goalie came down with flu-like symptoms earlier in the day.
Biron could've panicked and tanked on short notice. Instead, the 13-year veteran made key saves late in the third period and early in overtime to help the Rangers to a 3-2 overtime win over the Sabres.
Biron finished with 29 saves and Artem Anisimov scored his second goal of the night 1:32 into overtime to lift the Rangers, who won for just the third time in nine home games.
"We've been struggling in our building so this was a huge win," said Marian Gaborik, who had three shots in his first game back since separating his shoulder on Oct. 15.
Tortorella believed that, in addition to a needed scoring punch, Gaborik's return would provide "juice" to a team that had lost three of four entering play Thursday.
Biron felt that jolt the moment he saw Gaborik's name scribbled on the board in the locker room.
"When you walk in and see his name, you're like 'Oh good, yeah, let's get it going,'" Biron said.
Biron seemed to be inspired by Gaborik all night.
He turned away the first 17 shots he saw. The two game-tying goals he allowed were largely the result of the Rangers' allowing Buffalo to hang around the net too long.
Biron was brilliant in the third period.
He stopped nine shots in the final 10 minutes and three during a crucial penalty kill with just under five minutes to play.
"We don't get into overtime without some of his saves," Tortorella said.
Biron also made a critical stop on Jordan Leopold's backhand one minute into overtime, 30 seconds before Anisimov scored to seal a rare home win.
"He kind of got thrown in there," Tortorella said. "And he made some big saves. That's good news for us."
Tortorella thought the good news Thursday would be about Gaborik. Turned out to be about Biron, a guy who didn't even expect to play.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.