|BUF||0||1||2||(0 - 0)||3|
|NYR||1||3||1||(0 - 0)||5|
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Henrik Lundqvist recorded 38 saves, and four different Blueshirts scored goals as the Rangers won their third consecutive game overall and fourth in a row at home, defeating the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers have now won seven of their last nine contests, and they remain in seventh place in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race with 84 points. With Saturday’s NHL results, the Rangers are now four points clear of ninth place Florida and eight points up on 10th place Buffalo, while also pulling to within two points of fourth place in the conference.
“It’s a big two points for us,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “You’re not going to play perfect games, but we found a way to win a hockey game at a very important time of the year.”
Ryan Callahan celebrated his 24th birthday in style by scoring a pair of goals for the Rangers, while teammate Nik Antropov contributed two assists. Twelve of the 18 skaters for the Rangers, not including the goalies, found their way on to the scoresheet on Saturday.
“Every night we are getting contributions from different guys, and everyone is much more involved right now,” said Lundqvist. “So many things are clicking now. I think the coaches have done a great job here getting us going in the right direction.”
Three second-period goals turned the game permanently in the Rangers’ favor as the Blueshirts ballooned a 1-0 lead after one period of play to 4-1 after two.
Chris Drury scored a power-play goal against his former team at 2:25 to get the Rangers off to a strong start in the second period. Planted in the low slot, Drury deflected Paul Mara’s slap shot past Buffalo goaltender Patrick Lalime for his 18th goal of the season, and the Rangers had a 2-0 lead.
Although he did not record a point on the play, Michal Rozsival played a big role on the score by keeping a Buffalo clearing attempt in at the left point before shoveling the puck in deep behind the Sabres net. From there, Antropov worked the puck back to the right point where Mara fired a shot towards the cage, resulting in Drury’s goal.
A brief blip in the Rangers’ big middle period took place at 2:52 when Daniel Paille scored off a scramble in front of Lundqvist to cut the home team’s advantage in half.
The Rangers answered right back less than three minutes later. Callahan accepted a long breakout pass from Brandon Dubinsky, blew past defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, and tucked a shot inside the post to complete a breakaway at 5:25. Callahan’s 18th goal restored the Rangers two-goal lead, and increased his personal consecutive-game point-scoring streak to five games.
“To be able to put the puck in the net is a big thing for me, and what comes along with that is confidence,” said Callahan, who is 4-3-7 in his last five matches. “I came into this season wanting to contribute more offensively, and I am pretty happy with the way things have been going.”
Scott Gomez came within inches of making the score 4-1 at 7:05, but his wrist shot from 30 feet out -- off a gorgeous drop pass from Sean Avery -- clanged off the post. Twenty seconds later, Antropov slipped the puck between the skates of Buffalo defenseman Chris Butler to create a prime scoring chance for himself from in-tight, but Lalime made a strong pad save.
Nikolai Zherdev finally did give the Rangers a 4-1 lead at the 17:26 mark of the second period. With Avery creating havoc in front of Lalime, Zherdev fired a wrist shot from right wing that deflected off Butler and into the cage for his 21st goal of the season.
“We played some pretty good hockey games this season that we lost because we only scored one goal,” noted Lundqvist. “The difference now is that we are scoring goals. That changes everything, and can get you wins even when maybe you didn’t play your best.”
Although Lalime finished out the rest of the second period, Mikael Tellqvist was in goal for Buffalo to start the third. Lalime surrendered four goals on 19 shots, including a pair on the first two shots he faced in the middle stanza.
Tellqvist did a solid job keeping the Sabres in the contest after Buffalo’s Clarke MacArthur cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-2 just 18 seconds into the third period. He made several big saves, including a tremendous glove stop on Mara’s booming power play slap shot at 3:42. Tellqvist stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third period.
Lundqvist was equally as strong between the pipes for the Blueshirts, withstanding several waves of attack from the desperate Sabres in the third. His sensational, lightning-quick right-pad save on MacArthur’s screened backhand shot at 6:05 was crucial to the Rangers maintaining control of the match.
Buffalo’s Toni Lydman did score with 1:19 remaining in the match, creating a nail-biter of a finish for The Garden Faithful. But Callahan netted his second goal of the night, into an empty net, with 24.8 seconds left to put the game away.
“Personally, it was a good day for my birthday,” said Callahan, who is now just one goal shy of his first 20-goal campaign in the NHL. “I wished for three, but only got the two. But I’ll take two, and definitely the victory.”
Markus Naslund notched his first goal in seven games to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead 9:01 into the opening period. Naslund, Drury, and Marc Staal all drove hard to the net on the scoring play, while Antropov skated the puck up right wing and into the Sabres’ zone. Antropov centered the puck into the slot and it deflected off Staal and up to Naslund, who tipped it past Lalime for his 22nd goal of the season.
“I think we are all feeling good about how we are playing as a team,” said Naslund. “Different guys stepping up on different nights has been key. It’s a good feeling when you believe in the process that we’re involved in.”
As it turned out, Naslund’s goal was the only one scored by either team in an up-tempo and intensely-played first period. Buffalo peppered Lundqvist with 14 shots in the opening stanza, including four during its first power play just 2:51 into the contest. The Rangers countered with nine shots, which included an excellent shorthanded scoring chance for Blair Betts on a 2-on-1 rush during the Sabres’ other power play six minutes into the period.
Lauri Korpikoski had an excellent chance to put the Rangers on the scoreboard 6:24 into the first when he was awarded a penalty shot after being tripped from behind by Spacek during a shorthanded breakaway. However, Lalime made a strong right-pad save on Korpikoski’s quick forehand attempt, and the Rangers failed to convert on the penalty shot.
Buffalo came on late in the first period and nearly tied the game with 1:55 remaining before intermission when Craig Rivet’s slap shot from between the circles crashed off the crossbar behind Lundqvist and bounced harmlessly away.
Perhaps if that shot had gone in the complexion of the game would have changed. Instead the Rangers carried the 1-0 lead into the second period, and then put the game away by scoring three more times in the middle stanza. And that was enough even with the Sabres rallying to close within a goal in the third.
“Tonight we might not have played our best game, but we still won,” noted Naslund. “I think we are heading in the right direction, and playing well as a team, and I think that’s been a big change.”
The Rangers will look for a fourth straight win on Sunday evening when they host the Ottawa Senators in the middle game of a three-game homestand that concludes on Tuesday with a tilt against the Minnesota Wild.
|Markus Naslund (22) Backhand shot - ASST: Marc Staal (12), Nik Antropov (28)|
1 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Chris Drury (18) Tip-in - ASST: Paul Mara (14), Nik Antropov (29)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Daniel Paille (10) Tip-in - ASST: Dominic Moore (31), Maxim Afinogenov (14)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Ryan Callahan (18) Wrist shot - ASST: Brandon Dubinsky (27)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Nikolay Zherdev (21) Wrist shot - ASST: Scott Gomez (38), Sean Avery (9)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Clarke MacArthur (13) Wrist shot - ASST: Paul Gaustad (16), Patrick Kaleta (4)|
4 - 2 NYR
|Toni Lydman (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Thomas Vanek (23), Jason Pominville (37)|
4 - 3 NYR
|EN - Ryan Callahan (19) Wrist shot - ASST: Fredrik Sjostrom (4), Dan Girardi (14)|
5 - 3 NYR
|Blair Betts Interference against Dominic Moore|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Tim Connolly|
|Derek Morris Roughing against Paul Gaustad|
|Paul Gaustad Roughing against Derek Morris|
|Thomas Vanek Too many men/ice - bench|
|Fredrik Sjostrom Hooking against Jochen Hecht|
|Craig Rivet Slashing against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Scott Gomez Hooking against Clarke MacArthur|
|Clarke MacArthur Slashing against Lauri Korpikoski|
|Blair Betts Holding against Dominic Moore|
|Paul Gaustad Slashing against Brandon Dubinsky|
|Brandon Dubinsky Slashing against Paul Gaustad|
|Brandon Dubinsky Misconduct (10 min)|
|Paul Gaustad Misconduct (10 min)|
|SA: 11||TOI: 18:54|
|Saves: 11||EV: 8 - 8|
|PIM: 0||PP: 3 - 3|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 19||TOI: 39:54|
|Saves: 15||EV: 13 - 16|
|PIM: 0||PP: 0 - 1|
|SV%: .789||SH: 2 - 2|
|SA: 40||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 37||EV: 32 - 35|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .925||SH: 0 - 0|