Coming off a nice weekend in Washington, the New York Rangers came back home and won a hard fought game against the Sabres. While the Rangers didn’t win the back to back in D.C. like they should have, they allowed just three goals over the two games. On Friday night, the Rangers played 53 great minutes of hockey before allowing two goals in the final seven minutes to lose 2-1. In Saturday’s game, there was fear they were going down that same path. However, Mika Zibanejad scored with under three minutes to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. The Rangers came into the game playing tremendous defensively. That trend continued for the first forty minutes and last 15 minutes of this game.
The first period was really all Rangers. The Rangers outshot the Sabres 10-5 in the first period and have a majority of the possession. Buffalo lost its starting goalie very early on when Julien Gauthier got knocked into Carter Hutton. In for Buffalo came Dustin Tokarski, who Ranger fans know as Carey Price‘s fill in when he got hurt in the 2014 playoffs. Tokarski and Rangers goalie Keith Kinkaid went back and forth making saves in the first period. The Rangers skated circles around Buffalo in that period and yet the game remained scoreless into the second period.
Buffalo struck first in the game. Rasmus Asplund received a pass right in front of the net and was able to stuff it in to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead. The Rangers answered a few minutes later after Artemi Panarin made a beautiful pass to Kaapo Kakko. Kakko stuffed the puck home to tie the game at one. A few minutes later the Rangers went on the power play for the first time. As the man advantage was about to expire, the Sabres took another penalty to give the Rangers a 20 second five-on-three. The Rangers capitalized with Chris Kreider finishing a perfect pass from Panarin. The Rangers really picked it up after this goal, absolutely dominating the Sabres until the buzzer sounded. Ryan Strome scored with just under two minutes left in the second to take a 3-1 lead to the third.
Buffalo gave the Rangers a big scare early in the third period, tying the game with two goals in 3:13. Just over a minute after Buffalo’s tying goal, Kreider scored again on the power play. That goal gave the Rangers the lead for good. Kinkaid stood on his head for the rest of the game until Kakko netted an empty net goal giving the Rangers a 5-3 win over the Sabres.
Some Keys to the Victory
Two big parts of the Rangers win on Monday Night over the Sabres were the special teams and the possession play. The Rangers had a great night on special teams, staying out of the box and scoring on their power play opportunities. The Rangers scored on two of three power play opportunities. On their two extended power plays, the Rangers scored two power play goals, both by Kreider. The Rangers power play was very effective at getting pucks to the net and Kreider used his strength to finish on rebounds or passes. The Rangers penalty kill was effective in their two tries. One of the penalty kills was a short one after a bit of 4-on-4 play. Additionally, the Rangers outshot Buffalo 40-19 in the game, dominating possession and getting pucks to the net.
The Rangers came away with a hard fought win over the Sabres. The Rangers win was their fourth in their last six games. They also have points in five of their last six. With the Flyers overtime loss, the Rangers sit just two points behind the Flyers for fifth in the East Division. The Rangers also sit four points out of the East’s final playoff spot. The Rangers go back on the road for their next two games against a team they are chasing. The Flyers, who play the Devils on Tuesday night, will meet the Rangers on Thursday night and Saturday after noon. Two Rangers wins will leave them at worst tied with Philly, assuming Philly wins against New Jersey. However, with a Flyer loss on Tuesday, two Rangers wins will vault them over Philly in the standings.
An interesting note for Thursday’s game, the Rangers very well could be at full strength off a hard fought win over the Sabres. Not only could Igor Shesterkin return, but the Rangers might also be getting some offensive reinforcement. 21 year old Vitali Kravtsov recently came over from Russia and is officially done with his quarantine. He can join the team on Tuesday. Whether he is an option for Thursday is yet to be decided, but this week is looking like it’s going to give the Rangers yet another taste of the future.