The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres each had rough Tuesday nights, both on the wrong end of games that were never close.
Their meeting on Thursday was much closer, a back and forth thriller that featured 81 combined shots and just under four minutes of extra time. It ended with Chris Kreider’s game winning goal, his 20th score of the season, and the Rangers began February on a good note, a 2-1 overtime victory at KeyBank Arena.
It was a great bounce-back night for the Rangers (32-18-1), particularly for Henrik Lundqvist. Pulled after giving up half of the opposing tallies in the Rangers’ lifeless 6-4 loss to Columbus on Tuesday, Lundqvist made several showstopping saves, keeping things slanted in the Rangers’ favor. Overall, he stopped 36 shots, and earned the 396th win of his career. On the other side, Lundqvist‘s fellow Swede, Robin Lehner dealt with 43 Rangers shots. He too kept Buffalo (20-20-10) in the game and allowed them to earn a point in their trek for their first playoff berth since 2011.
The Rangers’ regulation goal came in the late stages of the second period. With Marcus Foligno in the sin bin for holding Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello ever so narrowly got a piece of Ryan McDonagh’s slap shot. A goal was taken away from McDonagh, but the Rangers were nonetheless credited with the goal for the 1-0 lead. The power play score was the Rangers’ first since January 17, ending a streak of 17 consecutive fruitless man advantages. Buffalo, however, necessitated overtime with a goal by Cody Franson in the late stages of regulation.
No stranger to come-from-behind overtime victories, having earned three in a row prior to the All-Star break, the Sabres nearly won it, but sharp saves by Lundqvist allowed the Rangers to live on. Another Buffalo penalty, a slash by Taylor Fedun, allowed the Rangers to play 4-on-3 hockey. Another power play goal was not to be, but JT Miller found Kreider to the right of Lehner seconds after the two minutes ended. Kreider put it in the first overtime goal of his career, and the celebration commenced for the 2-1 victory. It was Miller’s second assist of the night, and Kreider is now one short of tying his career high in goals, nabbing 21 in each of the past two seasons.
The Rangers also avoided being swept in the regular season by Buffalo for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign.
The Rangers return to action this weekend, where they’ll have a Super Bowl Sunday matinee with the Calgary Flames at home (2:00, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490