The Rangers love to make it difficult on themselves, don't they? The Rangers held back Buffalo despite 3 late penalties to skate to a 3-2 shootout win at MSG tonight.
The Rangers and Sabres skated to a scoreless tie in the first period. Although the bulk of the play was spent in the Buffalo end, the Rangers could only muster 7 shots against Ryan Miller, despite a couple good chances by JT Miller and a Boyle-Gaborik 2 on 1 that failed to connect.
Sadly, the Ranger team that went into the dressing room at the end of the first period, didn't bother to show up in the second. The suddenly turnover happy Rangers who were aggresively forechecked all period by Buffalo became lazy and careless with the puck and wound up being docked for it. Nearly midway through the frame, following a terrible icing by Stralman which left a depleted Rangers top unit on the ice, Richards won the ensuing faceoff but it was Sabres' center Mikhail Grigorenko, whose long reach took the puck away from Brad Richards. The puck found Drew Stafford who blasted a shot glove side over Lundqvist's shoulder.
If, and a big if, there was to be a turning point this season, tonight's 3rd period was it. The Rangers came out better to start the third period. But it wasn't until Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta delivered a nasty crosscheck to Brad Richards with his back turned along the boards that sent Kaleta off with a 5 minute boarding major, game misconduct and a likely meeting with Brendan Shanahan that woke the Rangers from their deep slumber.
On the ensuing power play it took the Rangers all of 7 seconds to find the back of the net. What appeared to be a set play, Stepan won the faceoff and after a couple quick passes around the perimeter of the Buffalo zone, Rick Nash found an open Stepan at the doorstep to tie the game at one at 3:35.
Less than a minute later, Rick Nash gave the Rangers the go-ahead goal, receiving a feed from Gaborik and beat Miller from the right circle, 43 seconds after Stepan tied it.
Even with the ice tilted against the Sabres, they still managed to rain on the Rangers parade. At the tail end of the 5 minute major, Nathan Gerbe and Steve Ott found themselves up ice on a shorthanded 2 on 1 with Rick Nash the only Ranger back. Although McDonagh did everything he could to backcheck, the puck found its way past a sliding Nash and a croutched McDonagh to Nathan Gerbe, who beat Lundqvist high glove once again to tie the game at two, 8:19 in.
The Rangers made it even more difficult on themselves even further to close out the third period and into overtime. The Rangers had to kill off 3 penalties just to get the game into a shootout. Two of the penalties against Rick Nash, one a weak hooking call on Kevin Porter with just under 5 minutes to go and a puck over the glass penalty with 34 seconds left in regulation. The Rangers did a masterful job holding the dead last ranked Sabres power play with little opportunity, even in overtime killing off the rare 5 on 3 to force the shootout.
What a game… edge of your seat action after Kaleta was sent off.
Before the you know what hit the fan in the third period, I wanted to focus on the Rangers first PP chance midway through the first period, 3 shots and good sustained pressure in the Buffalo end, but there's still way too much standing around and perimeter play, was far too easy for PK'ers to stand in shooting lanes.
Didn't like the amount of line-jumbling Torts pulled tonight to get Gaborik going. Gaborik played on all 3 lines at different points during the game and no matter where he was, his confidence simply wasn't there.
Richards had an OK game before the hit by Kaleta, hopefully he'll shake off the hit and find his game. At some point as this shortened season wears on, he's going to be called upon to step up. We're still waiting for that moment…
Speaking of Richards, I was sure he had sustained a major shoulder/collarbone injury after taking that hit, but recovered quickly enough to get a shift in on the 5 minute power play.
JT Miller had one of his better games tonight, stepped up to the plate big time in the third period, did everything but score.
Nash played like a man possessed in the third period and was the catalyst to the Rangers winning tonight. The man is impossible to stop with the puck on his stick when he steps his game up like he did tonight.
Nash did take a couple years off of my life, falling in front of Lundqvist with the puck at the end of OT which nearly led to Buffalo winning.
I tweeted during the game, Stepan is quietly having a breakout year. He's slowly, but surely becoming the future No. 1 center of this club, when Richards talents eventually decline… and hopefully they haven't started to already.
Love the stare down Stepan gave Miller after his goal… with questions surrounding the Rangers toughness, it's nice to see the Rangers attempt to intimidate somebody for once.
Can't say enough about Staal filling in with Girardi in the box during the 5 on 3 in OT.…
Callahan and Nash… filthy moves in the shootout.
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