BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) It took 14 seconds into his first NHL game for Mackenzie Skapski to give up his first career goal. The New York Rangers’ 20-year-old goalie proved to be perfect over the rest of his debut.
After being beaten by Matt Moulson on the first shot, Skapski stopped the final 24 he faced in a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. Rick Nash had a goal and assist, while Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello also scored for New York.
”Super pumped,” Skapski said, noting the victory came on his father’s birthday. ”I couldn’t have scripted it better.”
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Even the opening minute?
”I think I rebounded well from that,” Skapski said. ”It’s tough to really sit back right now and acknowledge I got my first NHL win, so hopefully there’s many more.”
Coach Alain Vigneault was pleased how Skapski and the Rangers responded to the opening goal, when Moulson was left untouched in front to redirect Torrey Mitchell’s centering pass.
”It wasn’t the way we wanted to start, but sometimes stuff happens on the ice,” Vigneault said. ”But after that, I thought we played a pretty solid game.”
The Rangers improved to 8-1-2 in their past 11, defeated Buffalo for the sixth straight time, and extended their road winning streak to a season-best five straight.
Buffalo, coming off a 3-2 shootout win at Philadelphia on Thursday, dropped to 1-4-1 in its past six.
The Sabres didn’t muster many chances after the opening minute in a game they were outshot 31-12 through two periods and 43-25 overall. Buffalo, which has produced a league-low 102 goals has failed to score three or more in regulation in 19 of its past 23 games.
”Getting 12 shots in the first two periods on a young kid isn’t good enough,” Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. ”We’ve got to challenge him. We’ve got to make him work for it. We started to do a little bit of it in the third, but it was just too late.”
Buffalo defenseman Mike Weber did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury in the first period.
Hagelin tied the score 5:51 in when he was sent in alone by J.T. Miller’s long flip pass from deep in the Rangers’ zone. Hagelin skated in alone and sneaked a shot through Michal Neuvirth’s legs. Offsides wasn’t called despite a replay showing Hagelin crossing Buffalo’s blue line a step ahead of the puck.
There was no debating the Rangers’ two second-period goals.
Nash scored his 37th of the season by one-timing Derick Brassard’s hard cross-ice pass from the left wing during a 3-on-2 break 37 seconds into the period.
Nash then set up Zuccarello’s goal some 7 minutes later. Streaking up the right wing, Nash blew past defender Andre Benoit and cut across the front of the net while drawing Neuvirth with him. Nash’s shot hit the post and the puck caromed back into the slot where Zuccarello snapped it in the unguarded net.
Skapski was New York’s sixth-round draft pick, and had gone 12-7-3 at AHL Hartford before being called up on Feb. 4.
His best save came during a Sabres power play early in the third period when Chris Stewart’s shot from the high slot changed direction twice and trickled past the goalie. Skapski, however, reached back to glove the puck before it could cross the goal line.
”I thought he stayed with his strengths and just stayed relaxed,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of Skapski. ”I’m just glad that he could be a big part of our two points tonight.”
NOTES: Sabres LW Evander Kane attended his first game in Buffalo since being acquired in a trade with Winnipeg last week. Kane is recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery he had shortly before the trade. … Vigneault got his 502nd career win to move into 18th place on the NHL list, one ahead of Pat Quinn. … Sabres D Josh Gorges is expected to miss the remainder of the season after a second evaluation of a lower-body injury confirmed the initial diagnosis last week. … The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 21 but postponed due to a snowstorm that paralyzed much of the Buffalo region.