Rangers score 4 in first period en route to rout of Sabres
Henrik Lundqvist relished the big early lead his New York Rangers teammates gave him yet, at the same time, he felt some compassion for the vanquished Buffalo Sabres.
Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and Rick Nash scored power-play goals 2:32 apart in the first period, and the surging Rangers rolled to a 6-1 victory over the slumping Sabres on Saturday night.
New York was ahead 4-0 in the first, and the Sabres were well on their way to another loss after being beaten 2-0 at home by Florida on Friday.
"You have to give them some credit. They didn’t give up," said Lundqvist, who stopped 24 shots. "They kept working hard even though they were behind four, even five goals.
"They played last night, and they want to try to get a good game, and that happens to them. I kind of felt for them a little bit," he added.
Dan Boyle made it 4-0 with the only even-strength goal in the first, and Carl Hagelin and Jesper Fast added second-period tallies for the Rangers, who won for the 10th time in 11 games by posting their best offensive effort of the season.
Brassard, Boyle, Nash and Martin St. Louis all had two points for the Rangers, who are heading to California for three games in four nights beginning Wednesday at Western Conference-leading Anaheim.
The trip will include a visit to Los Angeles, where the Rangers will face the defending champion Kings, who beat them in last season’s Stanley Cup finals.
"It’s going to be a great test for us," Lundqvist said. "Three really good teams, and obviously some memories out there. We’ll see how it feels walking into that building. I think we’re excited to go."
New York did its early damage against goalie Michal Neuvirth, who started for the second consecutive night. He was pulled for Jhonas Enroth after allowing four goals on nine shots in a 12:34 span.
Including a 5-2 win at Florida on Wednesday, the Rangers have scored 11 goals in two games.
Drew Stafford scored in the second for the Sabres, who have lost four straight and are 1-7-1 in their last nine. Enroth stopped 28 of 30 shots at the start of a four-game road trip.
Brassard got New York going 8:46 in when St. Louis fed a perfect pass from the top of the right circle onto Brassard’s stick in the slot for a crisp deflection past Neuvirth — 14 seconds into Andrej Meszaros’ tripping penalty.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, putting the Rangers right back on the power play. Nolan said he clapped to encourage his team. It was perceived as being a sarcastic reaction to the previous penalty.
"I was clapping for the bench not for the call, which was a bad call," Nolan said. "He assumed, and that was wrong."
It took 1:07 for Kreider to make Buffalo pay.
J.T. Miller fed the puck Kreider inside the Sabres end, and he drove the net and scored for the second straight game and for the third time in eight. On the goal, Cody McCormick hooked Kreider and was sent to the penalty box, giving the Rangers their third straight power play.
"We weren’t really expecting the second one," Kreider said. "It was different for sure."
Nash made it 3-0 with his 24th goal 1:25 later. That ended the night for Neuvirth, who sat out 15 of 18 games before Friday.
"It’s tough to say why we weren’t better," Neuvirth said. "It’s tough to give up four goals so quick. I have to look at the tape and figure out how to play better."
The Rangers hadn’t scored three power-play goals this quickly since Nov. 21, 1995, against Pittsburgh. The last time they netted three in one period was Feb. 4, 2010, against Washington.
Hagelin pushed the lead to 5-0 at 2:26 of the second. Stafford ended Lundqvist’s shutout bid 22 seconds later.
New York even benefited from video replay on Fast’s jam-shot goal with 5:00 left in the second. Play continued for 27 seconds before a horn sounded to indicate a review that determined the puck got in behind Enroth to make it 6-1.
"We were probably out of it before it even started," Nolan said. "They get one, then all of a sudden they get another one and another one, and then the game is over."
NOTES: Meszaros returned after sitting out Friday, replacing D Tyson Strachan. … The Sabres have allowed an NHL-worst 136 goals. … Boyle scored his first goal in 12 games. … Sabres C Zemgus Girgensons was the leading vote-getter for the NHL All-Star game, and was one of six named to the game Saturday.