It is not the most ideal situation that the Rangers are in right now, but they are not out of it yet. That is the mentality the players have to have going into tomorrow's tilt with the Leafs, following a rough outing against the Sabres on this night. This loss dug the grave for the Blueshirts, but that grave is not yet filled. They still have a chance to temporarily postpone their death this season with a win, or at least a point, tomorrow.
The first period of this game was much more entertaining than your routine opening stanza between the Rangers and Sabres. There were a total of 25 shots on goal registered by the two clubs, and four of those hit the back of the net. The first was Brandon Prust 6:47 into the game, when he stripped Buffalo defenseman Chris Butler of the puck in the slot, spun, and rifled one over the shoulder of Ryan Miller for his third goal in three games. Exactly three minutes later, though, Derek Roy scored on the powerplay to answer back, making it a 1-1 tie.
In the second half of the first, Drew Stafford put a low shot five-hole on Henrik Lundqvist from a bad angle giving the Sabres the lead for the first time in the game. A P.A. Parenteau powerplay goal with two minutes remaining in the period would lock things back up, this time tying it at two. It was a smart move by Dan Girardi to take the shot from the point, and an even smarter one by Parenteau to sneak in and camp out right at the edge of the crease. 2-2 would be your score after the first.
The second period is one that many Ranger players would like to forget. Jochen Hecht scored through a Tyler Meyers screen 5:17 into the second, which led to head coach John Tortorella pulling Lundqvist from goal and replacing the frustrated netminder with back-up Alex Auld. It was a controversial decision by Tortorella, and really, a strong argument could be made from both standpoints. You do not want to destroy Lundqvist's self-esteem at this point of the season, but at the same time, he will have another shot tomorrow against the Leafs.
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Toput the icing on the cake late in the second, Toni Lydman beat Auld on a 4-on-3, and this made it 4-2 in favor of the Sabres. Up until that point, I thought that Auld was sharp considering he was coming in cold off the bench. He had to make two quick saves right off the bat and did, just to match Ryan Miller's godly stop on Marian Gaborik just several minutes earlier.
The game lost its excitement in the third period, as it was basically the Sabres protecting a lead and throwing in the occasional odd-man rush by having their defense join the offense. Only one goal was scored in the period, and that went to Tyler Ennis, who was crashing the net hard and tapped one past Auld. Other than that, nothing much was doing for either team. The final score would be 5-2.
The Rangers were outplayed for the better part of this contest, and there really is notanything more to this loss than that. The Blueshirts had some chances, but only scored on two of them. They made costly mistakes in the defensive zone, and they were burned. Goaltending was faulty, and it proved to hurt this team. Nothing went right for the team tonight and it just was a huge mess out there. It will be a tough game to erase from memory by the time they get back at it tomorrow with the Maple Leafs.
That game tomorrow has just become the most important tilt of the season. If the Rangers do not get at least a point against the Leafs, their season will be over and there will be no playoffs this time around. It is game seven tomorrow, and if they win it, they move on to play two more game sevens this weekend against the Flyers, who beat the Leafers on this night. It is a tough situation that the Rangers are in right now....very tough.