NYR 2, BUF 1 (OT) - Hank Wins Goaltending Duel

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Dave Rogers

Editor-in-Chief at Cleared for Contact
Writer, photographer and a lifelong New York Rangers hockey fan.
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NYR 2, BUF 1
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First things first.  Congratulations to Antti Raanta and his wife on the birth of their daughter, Evelyn. He was replaced on the bench by Magnus Hellberg, who would not be needed.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is having a Jekyll and Hyde season. Tonight, he was the monster, at least relative to his play in recent games. With 36 saves on 37 shots, Hank was in perfect position all night long, square to the shooter and absorbing most of Buffalo’s attempts. While he didn’t face many high-quality scoring chances until the third period, his control of the puck was a primary reason for that. When there were a few strong scoring chances against him, specifically late in the game, Hank came up with all but one of the stops.

There was no feeling out process to start the game. Both teams exchanged rushes in a track meet, although decent defensive play and solid goaltending kept the puck from crossing either team’s goal-line. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault switched up the lines after the previous game’s blowout against Columbus that wasn’t anywhere near as close as the 6-4 final.  AV reunited Nash, Stepan and Vesey from earlier in the season while keeping Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello together.  That left third and fourth lines that were a little questionable, where J.T. Miller, Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast made up one unit and Matt Puempel, Oscar Lindberg (who had drawn back in to replace Brandon Pirri who was a healthy scratch) and Pavel Buchnevich made up the other.  Through the first period, Nash was noticeable with and without the puck controlling it strongly and bringing it towards the net while the Rangers were solid on their two penalty kills.

While the Buffalo Sabres were a little more selective in their shots, the Rangers put everything they could on net. The Rangers outshot Buffalo in the first period 14 to 12, but the Sabres had a slight edge in quality.  The biggest moment of the first period, though, came when Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons lit up Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh.


If you turned off the game for the first 18 minutes of the second period, you wouldn’t have missed much. The teams combined for 25 shots in the middle frame, but not many of note. The Rangers finally broke the scoreless tie with just over two minutes left to go in the second period on a Zuccarello deflection of a McDonagh shot from the point. J.T. Miller had the other assist.


The third period was when the action started. A few minutes after Mats Zuccarello rang a shot off the post, Dan Girardi took a bad cross-checking penalty in the Rangers zone five minutes into the period. Hank came up huge to maintain the 1-0 lead on a number of glorious scoring chances on Buffalo’s power play, including a cross-crease one timer by Kyle Okposo which was then followed by a number of attempts to stuff the puck by him. Later on the same penalty kill, the Rangers had two consecutive two-on-one chances but failed to score on either. After the power play expired, the teams traded strong chances, this time the Rangers had the edge in quality.

As a team, the Rangers began to lock down defensively the last ten minutes of the period. With three Rangers forward caught deep and a puck squirting back to the point, Brady Skjei stepped into a slap shot, missed the net wide and the Rangers never recovered. They scrambled back into their zone to neutralize the odd man rush, but by that time everyone was out of position and Buffalo’s Cody Fanson tied the game.


The Sabres took the play to the Rangers after the goal, putting them back on their heels. Most of the play for the final five minutes took place in the Rangers’ zone, where they were often pinned. It seemed like the only real question remaining was whether the Rangers would hang on to make it to OT or give up the go-ahead goal. They managed to hang on for the point.

To start the 3-on-3 overtime, Hank made a great save on Okposo just thirty seconds in that could have easily ended the game. One minute later, Michael Grabner drew a slash on a partial breakaway, sending the Rangers to their second power play of the night, this time 4-on-3.  While they maintained possession in the offensive zone for most of the power play, it was Kreider scoring on a beautiful passing play just as the penalty expired that ended the game in OT.


Chris Kreider scored the first regular season OT winner of his career. J.T. Miller had assists on both goals.

The Rangers’ next game is Sunday afternoon at 2:00 PM EST against the Calgary Flames.

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