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|BUF||2||1||1||(0 - 0)||4|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
If the Rangers are going to solidify their playoff standing in the Eastern Conference, they are going to have to begin winning games on the road while also taking care of business against the teams they are currently jockeying with in the standings.
The Rangers were unable to achieve either of those goals on Saturday night in Buffalo. Instead they fell to 0-7-1 in their last eight road contests, dropping a 4-2 decision to the Sabres at HSBC Arena.
Derek Roy recorded a goal and two assists for the Sabres, who also received a pair of assists from Tim Connolly. The Sabres have now beaten the Rangers three times this season with a final meeting scheduled for March 21 at MSG.
“I think the effort was fine, but I don’t think we battled,” stated Rangers head coach Tom Renney. “You have to be physical at both ends of the rink and we weren’t.”
At the end of a busy Saturday in the NHL, the Rangers found themselves tied for sixth place with both the Sabres and the Florida Panthers, who also were victorious on Saturday. All three of those teams have 68 points, one behind the fifth-place Montreal Canadiens and only three ahead of the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes.
Trailing 3-0 early in the third period, the Rangers received a couple of breaks to finally break through against the Sabres.
First, Sabres captain Craig Rivet was whistled for a hooking penalty just 1:04 into the final period. Then Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller -- who had stopped all 20 shots he had faced -- was forced out of the game after injuring his left leg in a collision with Scott Gomez behind his net at 1:32. And finally, a video review upheld the on-ice call that Markus Naslund had scored a power-play goal at 2:22.
Veteran goalie Patrick Lalime replaced Miller -- who gamely had crawled back into his crease following the collision with Gomez before the referee halted play and allowed the Sabres’ trainer to help him to the locker room. Less than a minute after he entered the contest, Lalime surrendered Naslund’s goal off a scramble in front. The goal -- his team-leading 18th of the season -- deflected off Naslund’s skate and over the goal line, and provided the Rangers hope of a comeback.
Although he looked uncomfortable at times, Lalime was able to hold the Rangers off. Lalime nearly misplayed shots by Gomez and Wade Redden into goals, but found ways to keep the puck out of the net on each occasion. He also made a big save on Lauri Korpikoski’s in-tight attempt from the doorstep midway through the period.
That save on Korpikoski proved to be critical, because moments later the Sabres scored to regain a three-goal advantage. Jochen Hecht flipped a backhand shot past Henrik Lundqvist for his seventh goal after a pretty pass from Connolly on the rush at 11:53.
“We have to be better than this,” stated Naslund simply.
In the days following their 3-1 victory over the Islanders on Wednesday, many Rangers players spoke about the importance of scoring early and playing with the lead as it adds to the club’s overall confidence during a game.
Certainly, the hope for Saturday’s contest in Buffalo was that the Rangers would play from ahead as they did on Wednesday and not have to rally from behind. Unfortunately, that game plan was dissolved before the opening period was complete.
After a strong start to the contest, the Rangers began to give way to the Sabres, and Buffalo was able to take advantage. Dan Paille converted a Roy pass for his seventh goal of the season at 15:50 of the first period and the Rangers were in a 1-0 hole. Roy got behind Marc Staal and accepted a long pass from teammate Chris Butler, then danced past Michal Rozsival, before feeding in front to a wide-open Paille for the game-opening score.
“It’s happened quite a few times where we let a goal in and seem to let teams gain confidence against us,” said Naslund. “Then we start playing when we have our backs against the wall, and it’s too late.”
Paille nearly doubled the Sabres advantage less than a minute later when he broke in on Lundqvist. Fortunately for the Rangers, Erik Reitz caught up to Paille and drove him off of the puck and out of the play.
However, Roy made another neat pass to set up a goal at 18:40, increasing the Rangers’ deficit to two. Roy skated to the right wing circle in the Rangers zone and dropped the puck back to Andrej Sekera, whose ensuing shot deflected off Redden and up over the right shoulder of a surprised Lundqvist for his second goal of the season, upping the Sabres lead to 2-0.
“The second goal, to me, is the one that really stung us badly,” said Renney. “A nothing play and then it’s in the net off a deflection off Wade’s hand.”
In a span of three minutes, the Rangers’ hope of scoring the first goal and playing with the lead vanished and, as they have been forced to so often of late, they were forced into attempting to rally from behind.
That task became the even more difficult in the second period. For one, the Sabres did a terrific job shutting down the Rangers’ offense. And for two, the Sabres scored once again to grab a 3-0 lead.
With Reitz in the penalty box for tripping Paille at 12:42 of the middle stanza, Roy continued his big night by scoring a power play goal. Rivet hammered a slap shot on goal from the left point that was denied by Lundqvist, but Roy gained position behind Staal and chipped in the rebound at 13:42 for his 22nd goal, and his third point of the game.
Following Roy’s score, the Rangers finally began creating some quality scoring chances. In fact, six of the Rangers’ ten shots on goal in the second period took place over the final six minutes. But Miller was sharp between the pipes, and the Rangers remained down 3-0 after two periods of play.
Miller made strong saves in the final minutes of the middle stanza on Naslund’s long shot through traffic, Korpikoski’s wicked wrist shot from the right circle, and Petr Prucha’s tricky right wing shot. The Sabres’ goaltender also came up big during a goalmouth scramble as the buzzer sounded to end the second period.
The Rangers closed out the second with grit and determination, the same way they started the contest. However, the home team displayed more of those qualities for longer stretches of the match.
There were quite a few big hits thrown by each team in this physical match. Ryan Callahan delivered a few rousing ones of his own before having his helmet popped off by a thunderous open-ice check from Patrik Kaleta in the first period. Brandon Dubinsky had two of the biggest hits of the night -- on Henrik Tallinder in the first and Adam Mair in the second -- though he was also shaken up in the first when Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman drilled him into the back boards.
There will not be any time for the Rangers -- now 2-7-2 their last 11 matches overall -- to dwell on this latest defeat. The Blueshirts return to action on Sunday evening when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden. Prior to the contest the Rangers’ organization will honor Hall of Famers Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate, retiring their numbers in an on-ice ceremony.
|Daniel Paille (7) Tip-in - ASST: Derek Roy (34), Chris Butler (3)|
1 - 0 BUF
|Andrej Sekera (2) Wrist shot - ASST: Derek Roy (35), Jaroslav Spacek (23)|
2 - 0 BUF
|PPG - Derek Roy (22) Wrist shot - ASST: Paul Gaustad (12), Craig Rivet (15)|
3 - 0 BUF
|PPG - Markus Naslund (18) Deflected shot - ASST: Scott Gomez (30), Chris Drury (23)|
3 - 1 BUF
|Jochen Hecht (7) Backhand shot - ASST: Tim Connolly (15), Henrik Tallinder (6)|
4 - 1 BUF
|Nigel Dawes (10) Tip-in - ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (29), Dmitri Kalinin (10)|
4 - 2 BUF
|Michal Rozsival Holding against Derek Roy|
|Craig Rivet Interference against Nigel Dawes|
|Erik Reitz Tripping against Daniel Paille|
|Colton Orr Roughing against Paul Gaustad|
|Craig Rivet Hooking against Scott Gomez|
|Markus Naslund Roughing against Patrick Kaleta|
|SA: 33||TOI: 58:57|
|Saves: 29||EV: 26 - 29|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 3|
|SV%: .879||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 20||TOI: 41:51|
|Saves: 20||EV: 16 - 16|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 13||TOI: 18:06|
|Saves: 11||EV: 11 - 12|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 1|
|SV%: .846||SH: 0 - 0|