The Rangers came into the game with a chance to get within four points of the Boston Bruins, though they still have two games in hand. Chances for the playoffs remain highly unlikely, though the Rangers will continue to fight for a spot. Evidently, it’s going to be tough for those slim hopes to become reality. Igor Shesterkin gets the start in goal after Alexandar Georgiev picked up the victory on Friday. Shesterkin is looking to bounce back after two losses in which he gave up a combined nine goals.
The Rangers had to come out with a strong first period to set the tone against Buffalo. They were able to do just that by scoring three goals to Buffalo’s one. Mika Zibanejad was the star of the first period as he picked up two goals.
His first goal came on a nice pass across the ice from Alexis Lafreniere, as Zibanejad fired a wrister past Dustin Tokarski near the top of the right circle. This occurred at 4:49 of the first period, though it was not long before Buffalo would get an answer. The struggling Jeff Skinner would score on a backhand shot past the shoulder of Shesterkin. It would be his first goal since April 11th and just his sixth overall of the season. Alas, Buffalo’s answer got the Rangers back on their heels.
Following the goal, the Rangers picked up their game even more, which resulted in two more goals. Kaapo Kakko would score his 7th of the season on a beauty of a setup from Norris-trophy candidate, Adam Fox. Fox has been an absolute assist machine and his strong hockey IQ has allowed him to set up some pretty-looking goals. The Rangers were rewarded with a power-play at 16:17 of the first period and didn’t waste any time.
With just over a minute left with the man advantage, Mika Zibanejad would get his second of the game, as Artemi Panarin found Zibanejad in the slot for a tip-in goal. Fox would be credited with his second assist of the period, and his 40th on the season. Overall, the first period was a strong one for the Rangers. They held it down defensively, for the most part, holding the Sabres to 11 shots and were able to find the back of the net three times.
The second period started with a nice back check from K’Andre Miller. Miller had the puck at the blue line on the left side boards when he tried to backhand the puck deep in the zone. He did not get it deep enough as it deflected off the pads of Dylan Cozens, who picked up the puck and started down the right side of the ice. Miller turned around and was able to get a piece of Cozen’s stick and prevent him from getting off a shot.
Shortly thereafter, the Rangers would get yet another goal. At 2:05 of the period, Buchnevich found Zibanejad streaking from the defensive zone and took the puck down the right side and finished on a nice fake on defenseman Colin Miller and fired one past Tokarski. It was his third goal of the game, making it his third hat-trick of the season. It was his second hat-trick of the season that occurred within the first 22 minutes of the game. Zibanejad has been on a complete tear since his extremely slow start and now has 45 points in 49 games, including 40 points in his last 30 games.
Sabres’ Pick Up Goal On Power-Play
The Rangers then had to start relying on their defense. Two straight penalties within the final half of the period gave the Sabres a chance to come back in the game. After a few blocked chances and saves, the Sabres were finally able to get one past Shesterkin. With the Sabres’ second power-play winding down, Victor Olofsson was able to convert on a one-time pass from Sam Reinhart. The Sabres looked to be building momentum until they were assessed with a penalty at 16:11 of the period.
The Rangers’ first power-play chance was filled with numerous scoring chances as Ryan Strome, Artemi Panarin, and Adam Fox all took shots toward the net. The Rangers’ second power-play unit came on for the last thirty seconds of the man advantage. However, they were unable to register a shot despite the zone pressure.
The Sabres started to build some momentum early in the third period looking to get within one. A Filip Chytil turnover allowed the Sabres to maintain some sustained offensive pressure. However, the Sabres bit themselves in the foot when they took a penalty and gave the Rangers their third power-play. This proved to be a costly mistake for Buffalo.
The Rangers’ power play has become more deadly in recent weeks and they made the Sabres pay yet again. Kaapo Kakko got his second goal of the game on a nice rebound effort to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead.
Zac Jones started the play by moving to his left side, drawing the Sabres defenders, and sending a pass across to Pavel Buchnevich. Buchnevich got the puck to the net and Kakko found the rebound and scored.
The Sabres would come down just under two and a half minutes later and get that goal back. Sam Reinhart one-timed a shot that found his stick on the far side and ripped it past Shesterkin for his 21st goal of the season. Reinhart has been able to perform and score at a high rate despite the Sabres’ overall scoring struggles.
The Rangers would then take a penalty with 5:30 remaining in the third period. The Sabres kept the puck to the outside but were unable to get one to the net. The Rangers were able to get a couple of clears as the kill expired with zero shots allowed. Mika Zibanejad had a chance for a fourth goal, though his attempt was blocked away by Tokarski.
The Sabres would have a six-on-four for the final 1:32 as Ryan Strome went to the box with a penalty. The Rangers defense stepped up yet again and kept the Sabres at bay. The one Sabres chance toward the net was a Victor Olofsson shot that was blocked by Fox. After the faceoff win, Kevin Rooney picked up the puck and fired it 200 feet away into the empty net.
The Rangers held on to for the 6-3 victory and now stand four points behind the Bruins. The two teams will be back at it again on Tuesday, as the Rangers continue to look for victories. They are currently 6-2 in their last eight games and 7-2-1 in their last ten. Although the Rangers have had a strong run as of late, it remains to be seen whether it will be enough for the playoffs.