NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -Jamie Langenbrunner scored one of the strangest goals of his career to give the New Jersey Devils the No. 2 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
Langenbrunner scored an empty-net, power-play goal with 3 seconds left and the Devils edged Buffalo for the No. 2 spot with a 2-1 victory over the Sabres on Sunday.
``We did what we wanted to do,' Langenbrunner said. ``We finished as high as possible. We've given ourselves a big opportunity. Now we have to go deliver in the playoffs.'
The ending to this game was odd. The Sabres needed to win in regulation to earn the No. 2 seed, so they pulled goalie Patrick Lalime with about 10 seconds remaining, the score tied and the Devils on a power play. The plan was to press for a goal, but it got off to a strange start when Lalime collided with referee Steve Kozari while heading to the Buffalo bench and both fell to the ice.
Seconds later, Langenbrunner took a pass from Zach Parise and found the empty net.
``It was one of the odder ones,' Langenbrunner said. ``It caught us by surprise. I saw him taking off. It was obviously a tough situation for them. They had to win it in regulation. It's tough when you're short-handed like that. We weren't sure if they were going to do it or not.'
Travis Zajac also scored for New Jersey and Martin Brodeur stopped 22 shots, including a great leg save on Toni Lydman with 2:35 to play to prevent Buffalo from taking the lead.
The Devils will meet seventh-seeded Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs. The Flyers beat New Jersey in five of six games this season.
``No teams are easy,' Brodeur said. ``You don't pick and choose. You make your own path and you go from there. The Flyers are a good hockey team. They had to play hard in the last month to get where they are now. In the playoffs, the atmosphere is different. The intensity is up. We're all going to start on an even keel.'
Philadelphia got into the playoffs earlier Sunday with a 2-1 shootout win over the New York Rangers.
Thomas Vanek scored his fifth goal in two days for the Northeast Division champion Sabres, who wound up with the No. 3 seed in the East and will play sixth-seeded Boston in the first round. The Bruins won the season series 4-2.
``They are a tough team to play and they have a very good goaltender,' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ``They played well down the stretch. We're going to have to play well.'
By yielding only one goal, Brodeur wrapped up his fifth William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. New Jersey gave up an NHL-low 191 goals this season.
The Devils finished the season with four wins in five games.
``It's getting there,' Langenbrunner said of the Devils' confidence level. ``We did what we needed to do in these last few weeks, play some good hockey. We're kind of rounding into form. It's the right time of year to start playing well.'
Lalime, who got the start with the Sabres electing to give Ryan Miller an extra day off before the playoffs, and Brodeur were both outstanding in the third period.
Lalime made 33 saves, including two great stops on David Clarkson, one on Patrik Elias and one on Langenbrunner in the final period.
Besides the stop on Lydman, Brodeur made a terrific stop on a power-play deflection by Derek Roy in the opening minutes of the final period.
Penalties hurt the Sabres in the final minutes, though. Steve Montador was called for holding at 17:37 and Mike Grier also was whistled for holding with a minute to go, giving New Jersey a two-man advantage for 36 seconds, virtually assuring it the No. 2 seed.
Zajac, who had three assists Saturday night when the Devils wrapped up their second straight Atlantic Division title, tied the game 1-all at 6:27 of the second by putting a rebound past Lalime, who started for only the third time in 16 games.
Lalime stopped defenseman Paul Martin's shot from the point, but Ilya Kovalchuk nudged the rebound to Zajac, who fired his 25th goal of the season into an open net.
Vanek, who had a career-high four goals Saturday night in a win over Ottawa, beat Brodeur in close at 1:10 of the second. Roy did most of the work, collecting the rebound of Tim Kennedy's shot behind the net and finding Vanek on the edge of the crease for an easy goal.
NOTES: New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was at the game, wearing a Devils jersey. ... With D Colin White given the game off, Zajac was the only Devil to play all 82 regular-season games. D Henrik Tallinder, RW Jason Pominville and rookie D Tyler Myers played in all 82 for the Sabres. ... The teams split the season series 2-2. ... The public address system went down for about 10 minutes in the second period.
The Associated Press News Service
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