Feb 2, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) celebrates a goal during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Rangers carried a two-game losing streak into Buffalo Thursday night. Henrik Lundqvist recorded 36 saves and Chris Kreider scored an overtime goal to secure the victory.
Coming off a mixed effort against the Blue Jackets Tuesday, the Rangers traveled to Buffalo to face the Sabres.
The first period opened with plenty of speed by both teams, and Lundqvist was forced to prove Tuesday’s loss was behind him early. New York saw their first high-quality opportunity six minutes in when Pavel Buchnevich fired a wide-open shot into Robin Lehner’s pads.
Rick Nash was the star of the period, using his size and speed to cause havoc through the neutral zone and in Buffalo’s goal crease.
The period ended the way it started, scoreless. New York led Buffalo in shots on goal 14-12, despite being shorthanded four minutes in the period.
The Rangers continued to control play at even strength to start the second period. Buffalo gave the Rangers their first power play 4:18 into the second period on a Taylor Fedun tripping call. With Buffalo’s successful kill, the Rangers failed to convert on their last 16 power plays.
Following the power play, the Sabres began to apply sustained pressure in New York’s defensive zone.
Henrik Lundqvist made several difficult saves, including a point-blank shot from Sam Reinhart to keep the game tied at zero.
At 17:50 of the second period Mats Zuccarello scored on a redirection from a Ryan McDonagh blast from the point.
The Rangers took their one goal advantage to the locker room during the second intermission. They also led the game in shots on goal 29-21 at the time.
Third period action played out much differently than that of the first two periods. New York settled in early to defend their lead, while Buffalo tried to force opportunities through the neutral zone.
With the Rangers seeming comfortable sitting back in the defensive zone, Buffalo began to apply pressure. Cody Franson scored the equalizer at 14:29 of the third on an assist from Tyler Ennis. Neither team would score through the end of regulation.
The Rangers earned a power-play in overtime thanks to a Michael Grabner breakaway chance. After failing to score on the power-play, New York entered the Sabres’ zone with numbers.
Mika Zibanejad dropped the puck back to Chris Kreider, who slid it over to J.T. Miller, back to Kreider, and into the back of the net. Another overtime winner for the Rangers, this time on the 20th goal of the season for Chris Kreider. Big win!
Rick Nash had one of those nights where he showed his veteran savvy. He was able to outwork and outmuscle Buffalo’s defense from the onset of the game.
Jimmy Vesey saw a change in linemates in this game, being moved from the fourth line to the first line. It’s easy to see how much impact he can have on games when he’s got playmakers around him.
Mats Zuccarello scored his fourth goal in his last 33 games, but nobody is complaining. He has been absolute assist machine this season, and his energy level is unmatched on a nightly basis. He was also named the Rangers’ You Can Play Ambassador earlier in the day.
The winning goal was scored by Chris Kreider, but it was Michael Grabner’s speed that impressed most throughout the night. Still, the pair’s speed is unstoppable when they’re both on. It was beautiful to watch.
Ryan McDonagh was put on the ice by a tough hit from Zemgus Girgensons in the first period. Luckily the hit did no damage and McDonagh finished his shift and the game. However, the emphasis of the announcers couldn’t help but remind us that the Rangers would be lost should they lose their captain for any amount of time.
Speaking of McDonagh and his importance to this defense, he recorded his 27th assist, good for second on the team behind the man who scored the goal, Mats Zuccarello. He’s on pace for a career-high in assists and possibly points, all while playing alongside the league’s worst player
The Rangers right-handed disasters continue. Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi both were burnt countless times against Buffalo’s young, fast forwards. They were both victimized the first period, resulting in penalties to make up for their defensive inabilities. There’s not many more ways we can call for Adam Clendening’s insertion to the lineup.
Henrik Lundqvist needed a strong showing in tonight’s game, and boy did he provide. Buffalo has a great group of forwards that really know how to shoot the puck, so he had to be good in this one. He made big save after big save, keeping the Rangers in the game with the score tied for a large portion of the first two periods.
He wasn’t at fault for the late third period goal, either. All five Rangers skaters were surrounding the goal crease, adding to Lundqvist’s job. He looks ready to roll moving forward.
Antti Raanta was absent from the Rangers’ bench tonight with his wife giving birth to their newborn daughter Evelyn. Magnus Hellberg was called up from Hartford but was not needed with Lundqvist’s strong performance.