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Sabres’ intense effort stymied by red hot Lundqvist

Nearly perfect game results in loss

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Less than thirty hours after the Buffalo Sabres routed the Ottawa Senators, the team was back at it in the Big Apple. The New York Rangers hosted the Sabres for a rare Sunday evening matchup, hot off of a win against Anaheim; the second in a row for the Blue Shirts.

It would have been difficult for Buffalo to repeat the impressive 9-2 drubbing the Sabres handed the Senators. Sunday’s matchup was Buffalo’s third game in four nights, so tempered expectations were certainly appropriate, despite the emotional victory on home ice.

The Sabres came out hot in the first period; perhaps still riding the high from their huge win. A pair of power plays gave Buffalo a sense that they were in control of the game, and outshot the Rangers 15-5 through the first frame, which included a close call that saw the puck die on the line, only to be swept away by Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist at the last second.

The rollercoaster ride of the last 36 hours came to an abrupt stop 41 seconds into the second period when Neal Pionk buried the puck behind Sabres goalie Carter Hutton. Just 19 seconds later, Jimmy Vesey sniped a shot to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead with 19 minutes still left to play in the period.

Buffalo remained relentless, unleashing another 15 shots on Lundqvist, but the Swedish superstar remained stalwart, even after a wild play left Lundqvist visibly shaken, with suspicions of a concussion.

Lundqvist would finally make a mistake at the 6:07 mark of the third period. Splitting to make a save, Lundqvist lost track of the puck between his legs, and Conor Sheary collected his own shot, banging home the goal.

Johan Larsson had a good look on a shorthanded two-on-one, but it was defended well by Rangers blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk. Lundqvist made the save and kept New York up by a goal.

Head Coach Phil Housley pulled the goalie with two minutes left, and with 1:51 left in the game, Vesey got his second of the night. A frustrated Sabres team watched the last few moments tick off of the clock and Lundqvist won his fourth of the year.

It’s a tough loss to swallow for Buffalo, who played a nearly perfect game. The only penalty the Sabres took was assessed at 12:40 in the third. The Sabres outshot the Rangers 40-22. The team limited their giveaways, possessed the puck well, and did a moderate job defending. Lundqvist’s performance was undoubtedly the story of the game, and he certainly stole a win from a tired but determined Buffalo squad.

Final: Rangers 3, Sabres 1

Shots on goal: Sabres 40 | Rangers 22

Sabres goals: Conor Sheary (5)

Rangers goals: Neal Pionk (1), Jimmy Vesey (4,5)

Three stars of the game

  1. Henrik Lundqvist (39 saves on 40 shots)
  2. Jimmy Vesey (2 goals)
  3. Conor Sheary (1 goal)