On Friday night, all it took was the third period.
Erasing 40 minutes of offensive frustration, Drury and Vanek scored 10 minutes apart, rallying the Sabres to a 3-2 win to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
"The timing was pretty good," Drury said, who scored 24 seconds into the period to tie the game at 2. "Out of the break, we talked about having a good five minutes. We got one right away and it energized us."
Vanek then scored his second straight game winner, converting a scramble in front with 9:49 remaining.
Coach Lindy Ruff could sense the boost the Sabres got from Drury's goal.
"It's great for us and does harm to them for their psyche," Ruff said.
Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr knows how important this win was for the Sabres.
"They probably think it's over," Jagr said. "But you never know. A series can change on one play."
The Rangers, who lost 5-2 on Wednesday, need to regroup quickly with the best-of-seven series shifting to New York for Game 3 on Sunday.
The Sabres won because their best players pulled through in the clutch -- and that included goalie Ryan Miller, who stopped 31 shots, including all 11 in the final period.
The Rangers, meanwhile, had nothing in response.
New York managed just one shot in the final two minutes, when the team enjoyed a two-man advantage with Buffalo's Daniel Briere in the penalty box and the Rangers goalie pulled.
Jagr had the best opportunity to tie the game with 2:02 left, when he was set up by Ryan Callahan while driving to the net. Jagr got a strong shot off but Miller kicked out his left pad and got his glove out to turn it aside.
"Tough luck, you know," Jagr said. "Next time, maybe it's going to be in."
Rangers coach Tom Renney said he doesn't think this loss will deflate the confidence of his team.
"I certainly hope not," Renney said. "I can't do anything more than continue to prepare our team."
Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell had a goal and registered a key assist on Vanek's goal.
As he was being pushed down from behind in the corner, Campbell shoveled a pass to Drew Stafford in front. With his back to the net, Stafford chipped the puck into the slot, where Vanek flipped it in over Henrik Lundqvist.
It was Vanek's fifth goal of the playoffs, and third in two games.
What the Sabres lacked in offense, they made up for with a strong physical game. Buffalo rattled the Rangers by delivering numerous checks, including Dainius Zubrus upending Jagr with a clean open-ice hip check late in the second period.
Jagr declined to discuss the hit.
"I don't think there's frustration," Jagr said of the team's overall mood. "We have to keep fighting and have some luck on our side."
The Rangers outshot the Sabres 33-18 overall and 22-9 through two periods. It was a considerable improvement after they allowed 37 shots in Game 1, and watched the Sabres score three times on four shots during a four-minute span in the second period.
"We played a good game but didn't get the result we wanted," Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. "I don't think it's a mystery. They're a great hockey team and you can't ever give them life or give them a chance."
- Michal Rozsival, New York's top-scoring defenseman, returned after missing the last half of Game 1 with a leg injury. He had an assist on the game-opening goal.
- Rangers LW Brad Isbister made his debut this postseason replacing RW Jed Ortmeyer, who had no points in five playoff games. Isbister has been a healthy scratch since playing in New York's season finale.
- Sabres LW Ales Kotalik was back playing with Drury in the third period, replacing Stafford as coach Ruff shuffled his lines. Stafford shifted to Derek Roy's line while Maxim Afinogenov was demoted to the fourth line centered by Tim Connolly.
- Jagr had an assist on Straka's goal, giving him 163 career playoff points to tie him for third with Sergei Fedorov among active players, and 17th overall.