|NYR||1||0||1||(0 - 0)||2|
|BUF||0||0||1||(0 - 0)||1|
• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 36 of 37 shots, and Christopher Higgins and Ryan Callahan scored the goals, as the Rangers snapped a three-game slide with a well-played 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena on Saturday night.
Lundqvist was within 58.1 seconds of his second shutout of the season, but Buffalo’s Jason Pominville snaked a long shot past him to create a nerve-wracking final minute for the visitors.
“It was a big relief to get a win,” said Lundqvist, who made 18 saves in third period alone. “It was a great road win for us. We played hard, and they’re tough to play against.”
When the Sabres played with more desperation in the third period, Lundqvist elevated his play, as well, and made his biggest saves of the night. During a Buffalo power play early in the third, Lundqvist made a pair of game-saving stops -- diving to rob Pominville from five feet out, and later denying Clarke MacArthur on the doorstep.
At 8:55 of the third, Buffalo’s Drew Stafford skated coast-to-coast with the puck, making a scintillating move past defenseman Michael Del Zotto as he closed in on the Rangers’ net, but Lundqvist at the last instant made a sensational, sprawling save with his pads.
The Rangers rewarded their star goaltender for his stellar effort by doubling their precarious one-goal lead with 6:16 remaining in the third period. Callahan charged to the net to convert a rebound of Sean Avery’s left-wing shot for his fifth goal of the season, upping the Rangers’ lead to 2-0.
Defenseman Marc Staal started the scoring play with a perfect pass through the neutral zone that caught Avery in full stride at the Sabres’ blueline. Avery drew both Buffalo defensemen towards him and fired a hard shot that was denied by Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller. Callahan skated into the empty area to Miller’s left and hammered the rebound into the back of the net.
“I think we competed harder tonight,” said Callahan. “Those loose-puck battles, we wanted to win them, and we did win them. And that was the biggest thing. I thought we had a solid 60 minutes.”
A big defensive play set the stage for the Rangers to open the scoring late in the first period. Marian Gaborik and Artem Anisimov combined to strip rookie defenseman Tyler Myers of the puck as he rushed into the Rangers zone on left wing. The Rangers quickly transitioned from defense to offense, with Anisimov zipping a pass to Gaborik in the neutral zone.
Gaborik carried the puck on right wing and somehow fired a pass between two Buffalo defenders to a cutting Higgins. The puck right on the blade of his stick, Higgins wasted no time in roofing a ten-foot shot past Miller and high into the cage for his third goal of the season at 17:31 of the first period to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
That Higgins’ goal began with some excellent teamwork in the defensive zone on this night was fitting because the Rangers’ commitment to strong defensive play was as great as it has been all season.
The Rangers made smart decisions with the puck, cutting down on giveaways and odd-man rushes. They also defended in sturdy fashion in their own end, and played physically in all three zones of the ice.
When Lundqvist was tested it was usually because the hard-working Sabres found a way to drive hard to the net. But Lundqvist was in top-form all night long, and was exceptionally sharp making saves on deflections and through screens.
In the second period, Lundqvist made a pair of clutch stops on Tim Connolly deflections to help preserve the Rangers’ slim one-goal lead. Just 1:19 in Connolly redirected a soft flip pass from Stafford, but Lundqvist made the pad save. Then at 9:45 Lundqvist robbed Connolly after the Sabres’ center charged to the net to neatly deflect MacArthur’s perfect centering pass.
Although those two prime scoring chances for Buffalo occurred in the second period, the Rangers actually played an even stronger middle stanza than first period. The Rangers outshot the Sabres 15-7 in the second, with Avery and Gaborik providing the visitors their best scoring opportunities.
“We talked about getting a good start in the first, and we did (have one),” said Lundqvist. “In the second we took over a little bit. We did it the right way tonight. We did great.”
Former Buffalo forwards Chris Drury and Ales Kotalik were also very active offensively for the Rangers. Drury recorded six shots, logging more than 20 minutes of ice-time. Kotalik finished with four shots.
Erik Christensen and Ilkka Heikkinen both made their Rangers debuts on Saturday night. Christensen, who was claimed on waivers on Wednesday, centered Higgins and Kotalik, and was in John Tortorella’s starting lineup. Heikkinen, the 25-year-old Finnish import who was recalled from Hartford along with backup goaltender Chad Johnson on Thursday, made his NHL debut and played a solid, hard-hitting game paired on defense with Matt Gilroy.
|Chris Higgins (3) Wrist shot - ASST: Marian Gaborik (17), Artem Anisimov (8)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Ryan Callahan (5) Wrist shot - ASST: Sean Avery (8), Marc Staal (9)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Jason Pominville (7) Slapshot - ASST: Tyler Myers (12)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Ales Kotalik Boarding against Adam Mair|
|Thomas Vanek Interference against Sean Avery|
|Tim Connolly Interference on goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|
|Enver Lisin Too many men/ice - bench|
|Vinny Prospal Tripping against Derek Roy|
|SA: 37||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 36||EV: 31 - 32|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .973||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 32||TOI: 58:22|
|Saves: 30||EV: 28 - 30|
|PIM: 0||PP: 2 - 2|
|SV%: .938||SH: 0 - 0|