Friday night at the Niagara Center proved a successful endeavor for the New York Rangers as they eliminated the Buffalo Sabres from playoff contingency.
The win provided the Blueshirts with a very necessary two points, pushing them closer to gaining a playoff berth and putting their game at hand in the win column. There are four games left and the run for a playoff spot may go right down to the end.
The Rangers came out with a bang capitalizing on three scoring opportunities in the first period, and scoring those three goals within 1:14. The first goal came off a wrap around by Carl Hagelin, getting the Blueshirts on the board first. Seconds later, Brad Richards tucked one away with some help from a defensive mistake by the Sabres’ defenseman. The third goal came at 19:56 in the first period. The Rangers broke the puck out and got it off to Ryane Clowe. Clowe dumped the puck in on Ryan Miller. Miller lost control of the puck on his stick and Clowe capitalized to make it 3-0 Rangers.
The Rangers took the ice for the second period with the same mentality, taking advantage of every opportunity to get the puck towards the net. This proved to be key to their offensive success.
The Blueshirts got the puck moving quickly then off to Anton Stralman. Stralman took a wrist shot from the point, driving the puck on net. Miller lost handle of it and the puck went in to make it 4-0 Rangers.
The scoring did not end there. The fifth goal started with a shot from the point by John Moore. Miller made the initial save, but Brad Richards was there to tap home the rebound.
The sixth goal came on an offensive rush. The Sabres backed into their own zone, which allowed Ryane Clowe to put pressure on the defense and drive to the net. Derek Stepan and Rick Nash set up a give-and-go situation. Nash pivoted and roofed one past Miller.
The Sabres finally caught a break and broke the shutout on the power play. Christian Ehrhoff let the puck go from the point and Cody Hodgson redirected the puck out of the air and down through Henrik Lundqvist’s five hole.
Buffalo kept at it and Nathan Gerbe pressured the Ranger defense off the faceoff, got the puck and skated into the Ranger zone. Gerbe wristed the puck short side and glove side, on Lundqvist.
The Rangers responded when Ryan Callahan pressured the point and picked off the puck from Mike Weber. Callahan went down for a break away and put one in to make it 7-2 Blueshirts.
At 16:19 in the second period, coming right of the faceoff, Drew Stafford picked up the puck and used Mats Zuccarello and Michael Del Zotto as a screen to back hand it past Lundqvist. Stafford cut the Ranger lead to 4.
The third period began and the Rangers knew they could not let down. At 12:13 in the third period, the Blueshirts caused a turnover and Ryan McDonagh got the puck off to Brad Richards coming across the blue line. Richards was going to the bench, but he realized the potential of the turnover and made a quick move back around to receive the pass. Richards got the puck on net and raised the Ranger lead to 8-3. Brad Richards scored is first career hat trick.
If there was ever a time to get hot, this would be it. Brad Richards seemed to agree,
“I don’t even really want to talk about it. I don’t want to jinx it,” Richards said of his current run. “It’s just, if it’s back now, it’s a great time to have it, let’s put it that way.” (NHL.com)
The Sabres were able to get one more goal in during the third period at 19:20, just seconds from the end of regulation time. Mark Pysyk was fed from the right point, took a slap shot from the left point, and got a final goal on Lundqvist. The puck caught the corner of the net and dropped in. The final score remained 8-4 in favor of New York.
The two points gained by the Rangers Friday night came at a crucial time in their quest for a playoff spot. With only four games left, there is no time to let down or get lazy. The Rangers have to keep up the intensity and get shots off. Friday night proved to be a perfect example of what happens when any shots are put on net; it is very possible that they just might end in goals, as they did against the Sabres. With one of the easier remaining schedules, the Rangers must make use of every opportunity to generate offense and muster points. This is not to say the games are going to be easy. The remaining games of the season, as teams are looking to make playoffs, present a highly competitive atmosphere. If the Blueshirts can keep up the scoring, take away neutral zone transitions, stay out of the box and limit turnovers, they are in good shape to hopefully stay in playoff contingency.
Friday night proved successful for the red, white, and blue all together. It seems the U.S.A. and the Rangers can sleep a little easier with their game at hand in the win column, and the second suspect alive and in custody.
The Rangers look to continue their win streak against the Devils Sunday at 3:00 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden.