Sabres, high-powered offense visit Rangers
NEW YORK — Thanks to the NHL’s schedulemaker, the Buffalo Sabres won’t have much time to revel in their biggest offensive outburst in almost a decade.
The Sabres play the second game of a back-to-back set Sunday night, when they visit the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams won their most recent games, albeit in far different fashion. The Sabres throttled the visiting Ottawa Senators 9-2 on Saturday afternoon. The Rangers earned their second straight shootout victory Thursday night, when they capped a four-game road trip by edging the Anaheim Ducks 3-2.
The rout of the Senators marked the first time the Sabres (7-5-2) scored nine goals since Jan. 27, 2009, when they beat the Edmonton Oilers 10-2. The nine goals were the most Buffalo has scored in a home game since a 10-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) on Jan. 18, 2008.
Any nine-goal outburst will be warmly greeted of course, but the Sabres were particularly pleased to bust out at home on the same afternoon the team honored Jason Pominville for playing in 1,000 NHL games. Pominville, who reached the milestone against the Senators on Thursday, scored two goals Saturday.
“For us, obviously, it’s been a tough few years in terms of our play at home,” Sabres center and captain Jack Eichel told reporters afterward. Buffalo entered 2018-19 with 72 home wins in the last five seasons, during which it finished with the worst overall record in the NHL three times.
“I think that’s something we’re trying to take more pride in, is playing better in front of our home fans,” Eichel said. “It was great to see them pack the building for ‘Pommer’s’ ceremony.”
The Rangers (5-7-1) will be playing in front of their home fans for the first time since Oct. 23, when they beat the Florida Panthers 5-2. The wins over the San Jose Sharks and the Ducks salvaged what could have been a discouraging road trip for New York, which opened the Western Conference swing by dropping two in a row to the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings.
The loss to the Kings marked the first of three straight games in which the Rangers gave up the tying or go-ahead goal in the final seconds of regulation. After defenseman Alec Martinez scored with 55 seconds remaining to give Los Angeles a 4-3 win Oct. 28, the Sharks (Tomas Hertl with 1.3 seconds left) and Ducks (Richard Rakell with 25.3 seconds remaining) forced overtime against New York.
Still, coming back to beat the Sharks and Ducks softened the blow for the Rangers.
“Listen, I mean, it’s a little demoralizing to be giving up goals with less than a minute to go (in) three straight games,” Rangers coach David Quinn told reporters Friday. “But we keep making progress, which is really what I want to focus on.”
After backup Linus Ullmark earned the win Saturday, No. 1 goaltender Carter Hutton is likely to return to the net for the Sabres on Sunday. Hutton took the loss in his most recent start Thursday, when he made 28 saves as Buffalo fell to the Senators 4-2.
Henrik Lundqvist, who sat in favor of backup Alexandar Georgiev against the Ducks, is likely to draw the start Sunday. Lundqvist earned the win in his most recent appearance Tuesday night, when he recorded 31 saves as the Rangers beat the Sharks 4-3.
Hutton is 4-0-0 with a 1.35 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in five appearances against the Rangers. Lundqvist is 20-13-2, 2.35, .919 in 36 games against the Sabres.