The first of three meetings between the Rangers and Sabres this season ended a lot like the last seven times they met. The Rangers won 6-3 and have now won eight straight and 12 of their last 14 against Buffalo.
Highlighting the importance of getting on the board first, the Rangers registered the first goal of the game for the 24th time this season. They’re 19-3-2 record in those games.
After a slow, rather lifeless two periods in which the Rangers led 2-1, a wild third period featured six goals. The game could’ve been out of hand a lot earlier if it weren’t for Sabres netminder Chad Johnson. He made several key saves to give the Sabres a chance, before the better team pulled away, handing the Sabres their third straight loss.
Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault was disgusted with his team’s effort after their 3-0 loss to Ottawa on Sunday. His team got the message loud and clear as they came out of the gates strong. The Rangers, a team laden with speed, skated circles around the Sabres for most of the first period.
Dylan Mcilrath and Brian Gionta traded first period goals. Gionta’s tally was the Sabres’ first goal in almost 100 minutes and first even strength goal in nearly 229 minutes.
The second period was full of sloppy passing and broken plays. The neutral zone got a work out as lanes were clogged up by both teams. It took six minutes before the Sabres even registered a shot. The Rangers finally broke through when Stalberg cleaned up a loose puck, spun around and sent a zinger by a surprised Johnson, to go up 2-1. It was all the result of a bad giveaway by Larsson at the red line.
A slow start to the third period doomed the Sabres yet again. Derick Brassard guided Jesper Fast’s pass in unintentionally with his skate to put the Rangers up 3-1. Girgensons, back from a four-game absence due to injury, quickly tied it up at 3, netting his 4th and 5th of the year, in a span of one minute and 13 seconds. It was a blur and sucked the life out of the building for all of one minute. JT Miller put the Rangers back up, 4-3 Rangers with a tap in, courtesy of Brassard. The power play goal ended the Sabres streak of 22 straight penalty kills, their longest stretch since October 2011, when they killed 24 consecutive in eight games.
The Rangers did a good job of keeping the Sabres on the perimeter with low percentage shots. Lundqvist barely broke a sweat in this one.
Derick Brassard was a beast in this game, having a 5-point night. In Eichel’s first game in Madison Square Garden, he collected a pair of assists.
The Sabres were set to fly to Ottawa immediately following the game for a Tuesday night tilt against the Senators. It’ll be a reunion of sorts for Robin Lehner as he’s expected to start in goal against his former team. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. Buffalo’s next game, after the All-Star break, will be in Montreal on Feb 3.