The Buffalo Sabres capped off a seven-game homestand with a Friday night tilt with the New York Rangers. As the team prepared to hit the road for seven of the next ten games, the matchup had a playoff feel, despite the fact that the Rangers’ hopes for a postseason are all-but dashed.
Still, the Rangers had a matching 5-4-1 record in the last ten, and one can never predict when Rangers goaltending will steal a game. It was important for the Sabres to take two points in their final home game of the stand to keep pace in the wild card race. A win for Buffalo and a Carolina loss would put the Sabres one step closer to the eighth spot.
It was a chaotic start to the first period. The Rangers took a penalty just 55 seconds into the game. The Sabres failed to convert, and less than 90 seconds after killing the penalty, the Rangers caught Buffalo watching and Boo Nieves buried the puck behind Linus Ullmark following a delayed call on Zemgus Girgensons.
New York doubled the lead at 14:03, when Jesper Fast scored on a tip of a Vladislav Namestnikov shot for his eighth of the season. It was a disappointing start for Buffalo, who had their opportunities in the opening frame. Girgensons missed on a breakaway, Evan Rodrigues just barely failed to split the Rangers defense on a break, and captain Jack Eichel came a posts-width from scoring, as well as missing the puck on a gaping net. Regardless of their efforts, the Sabres entered the first intermission with a two goal deficit.
The second period came fast and furious. With only 53 seconds off of the clock, Jeff Skinner scored goal number 35 on the season - edging into second place in the league. Less than a minute later, Jimmy Vesey came back to score New York’s third of the night.
Buffalo kept the pressure on, continuing to miss by inches. Eichel fired a clapper off of the crossbar, and the Sabres worked odd-man rushes well, but missing on the last touch.
Tha Sabres missed on another power play opportunity, but Skinner came through again at the 16:56 mark, cutting the Rangers lead in half. Buffalo ended the period with a minute left in their third power play of the night.
Buffalo’s bad luck continued into the third. Pavel Buchnevich scored at 15:59, and seconds later, a clear into the zone took a bad bounce off of Linus Ullmark and came to the front of then net for Namestnikov to bury. He’d score another in the final minute, giving the Rangers the 6-2 win.
It was a tough loss for a Buffalo squad that may have deserved better, but a stark .500 points percentage in a midseason homestand is pretty damning. It doesn’t get easier from here. The teams constitution will be tested in the next 10 games, which could very well define the season.
Final: Rangers 6, Sabres 2
Shots on goal Rangers 29 | Sabres 33
Sabres goals : Jeff Skinner (2)
Bruins goals: Boo Nieves (1), Jesper Fast (1), Jimmy Vesey (1), Pavel Buchnevich (1), Vladislav Namestnikov (2)
Three stars of the game
- Vladislov Namestnikov (2G, 1A)
- Alexander Georgiev (31 saves on 33 shots)
- Jeff Skinner (2G)