Power-play goals not enough in 3-2 loss to Sabres
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Ryan Miller turned aside 36 shots, and Patrick Kaleta scored a pair of goals as the Buffalo Sabres handed the Rangers a 3-2 defeat on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, avenging a home-ice loss to the Blueshirts from one week earlier.
recorded his 13th multiple-point game of the season, scoring a goal and adding an assist, for the Rangers who had defeated the Sabres 2-1 up in Buffalo last Saturday.
“It’s just getting over that hump to make another big offensive play,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “We’re stuck at two.”
After a surprisingly wide-open first two periods, things tightened up in the third with the Sabres holding a one-goal lead. Although the Rangers managed 10 shots in the final period, they did not generate a string of scoring chances unlike earlier in the contest.
“We have to find ways when we’re down a goal to score,” said defenseman Wade Redden
. “We didn’t really generate much in the third. It seemed like they sat back and we really didn’t have any pressure on them.”
Christopher Higgins came the closest to tying the game, but his slick move and backhand attempt from in-tight 2:45 into the third period was denied by Miller’s strong pad save.
The Rangers also had a power-play opportunity when Buffalo’s Tim Connolly was whistled for tripping Gaborik with 5:08 left to play. However, the Blueshirts could not score the equalizer after having scored twice earlier in the match on the power play.
“We didn’t get it done,” said Tortorella. “I thought we battled hard for pucks on our first couple of power plays and that was a big reason why we scored goals. And then it didn’t come through at a key time.”
The two teams played a wide-open game for the first 40 minutes, trading scoring chances at a quick pace at both ends of the ice. Two fast-paced periods of play came to a close with the Rangers holding a 28-25 edge in shots, but the Sabres leading 3-2 on the scoreboard.
Derek Roy opened the scoring for Buffalo at 6:25 of the first period. After the Sabres won a faceoff in the Rangers zone, Henrik Lundqvist
was forced into making a difficult save from in-close, but Roy gathered the rebound and slid the puck underneath Lundqvist during the ensuing scramble to put the Sabres up 1-0.
The Rangers, however, answered back not just once, but twice, on the power play over the next six minutes to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead.
pulled the Blueshirts even at 10:22, rifling home his sixth of the season from between the circles. Ales Kotalik sent the puck along the left-wing boards to Gaborik in the corner. Gaborik zipped a pass to Callahan, who beat Miller over the right shoulder to tie the game.
Less than two minutes later Gaborik netted his league-high 22nd goal to give the Rangers a 2-1 advantage. With plenty of open ice as the Rangers skated on a 4-on-3 power play, Gaborik received a cross-ice pass from Michael Del Zotto
, skated to the left dot, and snapped a shot past Miller at the 12:17 mark of the first period to hand the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
The goal was Gaborik’s first in four games, his longest stretch without scoring so far this season.
The Rangers did not have much time to enjoy their lead, however. Kaleta scored his first goal of the game at 14:28, and the score was once again tied.
Lundqvist made an awkward chest save on a high shot from the left point off the stick of Sabres’ defenseman Toni Lydman, but could not corral the rebound. Kaleta potted the rebound and the Sabres had tied the game 2-2, closing a stretch of four goals in eight minutes for the two teams.
“I don’t know what to say,” offered Lundqvist following the game. “We just have to keep battling. We did a lot of good things against a good team. But we came up short, again.”
Though there was not as much scoring during the second period, the play remained fairly wide-open and there were several excellent scoring chances for both sides. Kaleta’s second goal of the game, at 9:30 of the middle stanza, was the only score of the period, and it put Buffalo back in front 3-2.
With the Rangers skating on the power play, the puck hopped over the stick of Kotalik at the right point. Kaleta grabbed the loose puck and sped the other way on a clear breakaway. When he skated between the circles, Kaleta roofed a wicked snap shot over the glove of Lundqvist for Buffalo’s first shorthanded goal of the season, giving the Sabres a 3-2 lead in the process.
“It’s just a kick in the teeth,” said Tortorella. “A shorthanded goal when our power play was working early. The way we’re struggling to be consistent offensively, it’s just a real kick in the teeth.”
The Rangers kept pressing, and Miller had to make several excellent saves before the second period was over. Chris Drury
came close to tying the game at 15:57, but Miller was just able to get his right pad to the post in time to deny Drury’s wraparound attempt. And at 16:20, Miller held his ground and made a big save to deny Marc Staal
, the trailer on a 3-on-2 Rangers’ rush into the offensive zone.
Before the period was complete, the Rangers had to successfully kill off a late penalty to Kotalik, which they did. Lundqvist made two stops during the Sabres’ power play, with Callahan and Drury standing out during the kill.
“You look at the standings and where we’ve dug ourselves, and you see that we’ve got to get one win, start with that, and build off of that,” said Redden.
The Rangers return to action on Monday night when Ilya Kovalchuk leads the Atlanta Thrashers into The Garden for the second and final time this season.
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