If there was one player who you would have predicted to score a hat trick tonight, Derek Stepan may have been the last choice.
In his first career NHL game, Stepan scored three times on Ryan Miller, leading the Rangers to a 6-3 victory over Buffalo on Saturday night at HSBC arena. Stepan became the fourth player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his first career game.
The Rangers scored early and often, taking control of the game and spoiling Buffalo’s home opener. “We weren’t working,” Tyler Myers said. “We had moments, but as a team we didnt come to play.”
Jordan Leopold finished the night with three points (2G, 1A), and was perhaps Buffalo’s best player of the night.
Late in the first, after Myers lost an edge behind his own net, the Rangers capitalized and went up 2-0. Brandon Dubinsky tipped in an easy goal, quieting the crowd at HSBC arena.
Myers didn’t have any help from the forwards, though. He did lose the puck, but there was no backup and almost no chance for Miller to make the save.
After winning a faceoff, Patrick Kaleta passed the puck to Jordan Leopold for a one-timer. Leopold fired it past Lundqvist and the Sabres got on the board.
The Sabres finally looked alive and were playing their best hockey of the night, but the Rangers gained their two goal lead back again. Stefan scored his second goal of the night.
The Rangers kept pouring it on in the third period. Erik Christensen was left all alone in front of the net, scoring the fifth goal of the night for New York.
Stefan completed the hat trick with a goal towards the end of the second period, putting his team up by three. He became the fourth player in NHL history to score a hat trick in his first career game.
With a minute and a half to go in the third, the Rangers took a penalty, allowing Buffalo one final chance for two quick goals, with Miller pulled. The plan quickly back-fired as Dubinsky received a breakaway pass off the faceoff, putting the game away.
Let me just mention that Drew Stafford missed an easy tap in, which is not the first time that has happened. Steve Montador hasn’t done much for me, and he proved why again tonight. He constantly gives the puck away, and doesn’t make up for it.
I’m tired of him standing behind his own net, trying to pass the puck all the way up the ice, resulting in a turnover.
You can thank the hard work of Ennis for Roy’s third goal of the season. Late in the third period, Tyler Ennis simply dumped the puck in the zone and chased after it. Ennis had some nice stick-handling from his knees to deke the defender and get the puck out to Roy, who cashed in.
If there is something to take out of this game, at least the Sabres made it interesting. They played horrible for a large part of the game, but got to within two goals after being down by four.
After just four shots in the first period, Buffalo ended up outshooting the Rangers 36-28.
The Sabres will remain at home and take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night.