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• PHOTO GALLERY
• RANGERS GAME CENTER
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The Rangers gained a valuable point in the standings, but dropped a disappointing 2-1 decision in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
A great second effort by Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta -- from the side of the net chipping a rebound of his own shot off Henrik Lundqvist and into the cage -- proved to be the difference at 2:22 of overtime.
“I knew I was in trouble because (Kaleta) was back so fast on the rebound,” said Lundqvist. “I was just hoping for one of our players to take him out. When (I) am down on the ice like that, I know it’s not a good chance I will stop it.”
The goal brought to a close a great goaltending duel between two stellar Olympians, Lundqvist and Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. Lundqvist finished with 30 saves, while Miller stopped 35 of 36 shots.
“They are both great goalies and they both played great tonight,” Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan said of Lundqvist and Miller. “Unfortunately, we ended up on the short end of the stick.”
Brandon Dubinsky’s goal with 1:23 left to play in the third period tied the game, forced overtime, and ensured the Rangers a point in the tight Eastern Conference standings. Showing the true desperation he and his teammates felt, Dubinsky dove through the crease to stick a loose puck over the goal line during the Rangers’ second power play of the third period, setting off a deafening roar inside The Garden.
Dubinsky’s 16th goal of the season was the first scored by the Rangers in 149:30 dating back to his own score in the second period of Tuesday’s contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We needed two points tonight and we got one,” said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. “There’s lots of questions about our offense, but we are going to continue to fight each night here and see where we go.”
Adam Mair scored off a neat give-and-go with Thomas Vanek with 5:57 to go in the third period to snap a scoreless tie and hand the Sabres a 1-0 lead. Mair’s goal came seconds after he emerged from the penalty box, and Buffalo had killed off the Rangers’ first power play of the night.
During that power play, the Rangers came frustratingly close to scoring on three separate occasions, but Miller refused to give in. Olli Jokinen drove a left-point blast through traffic in front that Miller stopped, with Marian Gaborik beaten to the rebound by a fraction of second by a Sabres’ defenseman.
Chris Drury then had a prime chance, one-on-one against Miller down-low after a slick pass from Gaborik. But Miller made a super save on Drury’s backhander, and the Rangers were thwarted again.
In the waning seconds of the power play, Callahan jabbed at a loose puck along the goal line, but Miller was strong by his post and kept the puck from going in. Moments later Mair scored, compounding the Rangers’ frustration.
“Every team has a good goaltender right now, (and) he is definitely up there,” Lundqvist said of Miller. “This year he has been really good. I knew that coming in here. I had a feeling it was going to be a low-scoring game.”
The Rangers thought that they had finally broken through against Miller 9:13 into the third period when Dubinsky received a chip pass from Drury and slipped the puck between Miller’s pads. But as the Rangers Goal Song blared and The Garden Faithful celebrated, Drury was seen arguing with the linesman who had called the play offside, thus negating the first goal of the contest.
That the game was scoreless through two periods of play was due in large part to the excellence of Lundqvist and Miller. Both were extremely sharp, especially over the first 20 minutes when the two teams combined for 28 shots.
Very few second-chance opportunities were to be had for either team as both goalies either smothered initial shots or directed to non-scoring areas of the ice. In addition to the stout play of both Lundqvist and Miller, both teams played fairly solid defense in front of their respective netminders, in particular during the second period when shots on goal and scoring chances were both cut back on.
“Last night (against Washington) and tonight I thought we defended a lot better, a lot more consistently,” said Tortorella.
The closest the Rangers came to scoring in the first period was off a goal-mouth scramble in which Miller made two saves before the puck slithered towards the goal line. Just as it appeared a Rangers’ stick would nudge it over, Buffalo’s Kaleta slid across the crease and swatted the puck into the corner.
Moments later, the Rangers had a pretty tic-tac-toe passing sequence off the rush started by Gaborik and Erik Christensen that led to a prime opportunity from 10 feet out for Vinny Prospal. Miller, though, positioned himself perfectly and smothered the shot.
“We had a lot of chances, but need to score more goals in order to win games,” said Gaborik, who had four shots on goal in nearly 19 minutes of ice-time. “I thought we played a pretty good game, but we have to find a way to get some more goals.”
Midway through the second period, Callahan slipped in behind the Sabres’ defense on a 2-on-1 rush, but his shot was fired right into Miller’s midsection as yet again the Buffalo goaltender was in perfect position to make the save. Early in overtime Callahan, who led the team with six shots, nearly scored the game-winner off another 2-on-1 break, but Miller made the game-saving stop instead.
“Me and Dru had an odd-man rush there and the puck was kind of bouncing on me a bit,” explained Callahan of the overtime opportunity. “I wasn’t sure if I should take a shot, go across, and then it was pretty close to going in there. Unfortunately, that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Lundqvist was equally as sharp in goal for the Rangers, stopping 12 shots in the opening period and another nine in the second. His most nerve-wracking save came late in the middle stanza when a long dump-in took a surprise bounce, forcing Lundqvist to jam on his brakes as he moved from right-to-left in order to head back the other way and stick aside the errant puck.
With six minutes remaining in the first period, Lundqvist showed tremendous reflexes in making another vital save. During Buffalo’s first power play of the game, Mark Mancari unleashed a wicked snap shot from the slot that required an extremely quick right-toe stop by the Rangers’ goalie.
Four minutes into the third period, Lundqvist had a scary moment as he juggled an original Buffalo shot during a 3-on-2 rush. The puck fell into the crease when Buffalo’s Mike Grier and Rangers’ defenseman Matt Gilroy bumped into Lundqvist. Mair chipped the puck towards the net, but Lundqvist got a pad in the way to keep the game scoreless.
Two points out of the final playoff spot in the East, the Rangers return to action on Wednesday night when they skate against the Devils at the Prudential Center in Newark.
|Adam Mair (4) Snap shot - ASST: Derek Roy (29), Thomas Vanek (22)|
1 - 0 BUF
|PPG - Brandon Dubinsky (16) Tip-in - ASST: Michael Del Zotto (22), Olli Jokinen (30)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Patrick Kaleta (9) Backhand shot - ASST: Jochen Hecht (17), Steve Montador (14)|
2 - 1 BUF
|Dan Girardi Hooking against Thomas Vanek|
|Artem Anisimov Hooking against Michael Grier|
|Adam Mair Holding against Olli Jokinen|
|Jochen Hecht Slashing against Ryan Callahan|
|SA: 36||TOI: 62:22|
|Saves: 35||EV: 30 - 30|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 6|
|SV%: .972||SH: 0 - 0|
|SA: 32||TOI: 62:16|
|Saves: 30||EV: 29 - 31|
|PIM: 0||PP: 1 - 1|
|SV%: .938||SH: 0 - 0|