Mackenzie Skapski recorded a shutout in his second NHL start, and Keith Yandle scored the game-winning goal Saturday night, as the Rangers closed out their five-game road trip with a 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.
"A win in my first game, now this, I couldn't have scripted it any better," said Skapski post game after receiving a celebratory shaving cream pie in the face from teammate Chris Kreider.
Skapski was not challenged often, but he was forced to make several clutch stops over the course of the game. He finished with 20 saves, playing for the first time since making his NHL debut three weeks ago--a 3-1 victory also in Buffalo.
"I had a little bit of nerves walking into tonight's game, but I felt like I was pretty comfortable out there and pretty calm," explained Skapski. "Those guys made it easy for me tonight, limited the shots. I think I only had to make two or three big saves tonight."
Yandle snapped a scoreless tie 7:31 into the third period with his first goal as a Ranger, and fifth of the season. Stationed straight away and a few feet inside the blue line, Yandle accepted a pass from Martin St. Louis and then drove a shot through a maze of bodies in front of Sabres goalie Anders Lindback, and into the back of the cage. Yandle responded with a big pump of his right arm before he was swarmed by his teammates.
"I wasn't sure if I should react that way because I wasn't sure if my shot was tipped, but I just did it," offered Yandle. "It's anew team, and I played for so long where I had been (in Arizona), so I'm just trying to find my place here. It felt good (to score)."
St. Louis scored into the empty net with 32.7 seconds to play to close out the scoring.
A largely ho-hum contest came alive a bit late in the second period when New York's Tanner Glass and Buffalo's Nicolas Deslauriers dropped the gloves and exchanged blows at 17:20. Then in the final seconds of the period Skapski got his glove on a straight-on blast off the stick of Tim Schaller--one that knocked the Rangers rookie goaltender off balance and down to the ice as the puck deflected into the corner.
Skapski had a couple other memorable saves in his second NHL start Saturday, including a clutch stop on a Tyler Ennis breakaway just 6:16 into the opening period, and a sprawling piece of thievery to deny Brian Gionta at 1:03 of the second on a 2-on-1 Buffalo rush.
"I was a little nervous, but that breakaway save calmed me down," stated Skapski.
Most of New York's best scoring chances were not even recorded as shots on goal as the Rangers hit the post four times--including twice on the same first-period power play--and Rick Nash rifled a shot off the glass as the trailer on a perfect-looking 3-on-2 in the second period.
Derick Brassard was the first Ranger to find iron, doing so on a right wing shot during a power play 15 minutes into the opening stanza, and J.T. Miller--on his 22nd birthday--also hit the post during the same man advantage at 16:45. St. Louis clanked one of the post, too, midway through the second after drawing Lindback out of position with a nifty fake after a quick feed into the slot by Matt Hunwick. Then 3:23 into the third period Jesper Fast--from a sharp angle--also hit iron with his shot.
"There's no sense of panic, from the players to the coaches," said Yandle. "It doesn't matter if you're up a goal, down a goal, tied going into the third--there's no sense of panic here."
With Kevin Klein missing from the Rangers lineup due to an upper body injury suffered in Wednesday's 3-1 win in Washington, Hunwick stepped in and paired with Yandle at even strength on the blue line. Playing for the first time in eight games, Hunwick aggressively joined the play and pushed the pace from the back end, though he also took a hooking penalty 8:12 into the second after getting caught on a prolonged shift.