It took almost three years, but the Sabres finally notched a win against the Rangers. After a frantic third period, the Sabres skated away from Madison Square Garden with a 4-3 win. It was the Sabres’ second in a row and gave them points in eight of their last 10 games (6-2-2). The loss for the Rangers prevented them from punching their ticket to the playoffs. They’ve now lost two straight in regulation for the first time since mid December.
Chad Johnson earned his 21st win of the season, playing in his 100th career game. At one point, he made a Hasek-like save on Rick Nash. Looking like he was beat, he somehow flung his arm up around and got his blocker on the puck.
Matt Moulson’s 7th goal of the year proved to be the game winner; his second goal in the past three games.
The Sabres started the game with a strong first period, getting on the board midway through the period when Lundqvist gave up a big rebound off a Zach Bogosian shot. Ryan O’Reilly scooped it up and lit the lamp for his 19th of the year.
Just 2:52 later, O’Reilly’s 20th put the Sabres up 2-0. Jack Eichel picked up a loose puck, raced down the left wing and threaded a cross-ice pass to O’Reilly between a sprawling Derek Stepan and challenging Lundqvist. O’Reilly easily found the back of the net. It was yet another example of Jack’s speed and patience, drawing the goalie to him before finding O’Reilly for a tap-in. The goal gave the Sabres four 20 goal scorers (Eichel, Reinhart, Kane and O’Reilly) this year.
The Sabres didn’t let up. Just :46 into the second period, Larsson fed a pass from the corner to Zemgus Girgensons who had just come off the bench. Girgensons fired one from the slot and ate up a juicy rebound from Lundqvist, blasting a shot low, glove side. That was it for The King, who gave up three goals on just nine shots.
Kevin Hayes got the Rangers on the board next. Eric Staal “chipped and chased” one into the corner then sent a pass to the front to Hayes who wristed one past Johnson stick side.
The Sabres answered, regaining a three goal lead when Cal O’Reilly caused a turnover behind the net. The puck deflected in front, finding Moulson who made no mistake, burying it. It was in the net before Raanta knew it.
In the waning seconds of the second period, J.T. Miller cut the lead to 4-2. He had the whole open net starring him in the face after picking up a fortunate bounce off the back wall.
In the third period, Derek Stepan, on Johnson’s doorstep, pulled the Rangers within one by redirecting Kreider’s shot for his 19th of the season.
With eight minutes to go, a rare two penalty call gave the Rangers a 5-on-3 power play. The Sabres’ penalty kill was incredible—Legwand-Gorges-Ristolainen killed first 1:20, Ryan O’Reilly-McCabe-Bogosian finished it off. In past seasons, it wouldn’t have ended this way.
“It was an outstanding kill (5-on-3), all those guys on the ice, awesome to see and to get the win. Our guys played poised and controlled and were able to close this one out. We talked a little bit about playing with a lead and finishing it out and I thought our guys did a good job of that.” – Dan Bylsma
The Sabres play the Devils on Tuesday. Puck drop is 7:05 from the Prudential Center.