Any loss at this time of the year when all points are so tightly contested hurts, but this game has some extra sting to it. Part of the sting is the fact we have seen this movie far too often in the past two months. Rangers fall behind by two, rally to get within one, have countless chances to tie the game and "just run out of time." I am tired of talking about how hard they played and how close they came, at some point all loses are loses as there are no moral victory points in the standings, which got a lot worse for the Rangers tonight. They lost ground to all four teams that were around them in the standings and the hill got a little tougher, but do not lose sight of the fact they are still currently in seventh spot.
I know it is tough to see the standings from the ledge that many seem to looking over tonight. The overreactions are flying from everywhere about how the season is over and this team is worthless and if you believe that, then frankly just stay away for the rest of the year because we do not need you around. This team lacks true talent, but you cannot question their heart and that is part of what makes them so frustrating right now because unlike past years where they would mail games in, they fight to stay in it and are coming up short.
Recap of the action after the jump
The first ten minutes of the game had absolutely no pace or flow as both teams played extremely tentative hockey. The pace picked up some in the last five minutes of the period with the Rangers getting their best shift from the Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan line, which resulted in multiple chances including one that trickled wide.
With three minutes left in the period the Sabres got a power play on a weak call on Michael Sauer. Sauer went off for interference on Tyler Ennis and while it was likely a penalty the game has become really soft if those things are penalties. Just 15 seconds into the man advantage the Sabres converted on a Tyler Myers shot from the point that deflected off the stick of Dan Girardi. Lundqvist wanted an interference call on the play, but none came.
The second saw much better flow to the action and the Rangers had their share of chances. Early in the second Drew Stafford had an open net and was going to give the Sabres a two goal lead, but Ryan McDonagh made a brilliant play with his stick to prevent the goal.
Just past the midway point of the period Wojtek Wolski got called for his second penalty, and the Sabres cashed in this chance. Brad Boyes got the tally in his first game as a Sabre, but the play was made by Paul Gaustad when he flipped the puck to an open Boyes who slid the shot under a diving Lundqvist to give Buffalo a 2-0 lead.
Only 11 seconds later Mike Weber took a kneeing penalty on Sean Avery in the neutral zone. Bryan McCabe showed his worth on the power play as he kept firing bombs from the point, and in a shocking turn of events for Rangers fans actually hitting the net. The threat of the McCabe shot gave Erik Christensen room as he came off the wall and fired a wrist shot by Ryan Miller. A Ryan Callahan screen also played a key role on the goal that cut the Sabres lead to 2-1 13:45 into the second period.
The Rangers had a golden chance late in the period when on the man advantage Derek Stepan got the puck at the left faceoff circle and had Ryan Miller out of position, but instead of shooting into the half open net Stepan fired it right into the chest of Miller.
Early in the third period the Sabres extended the lead back to two with a beautiful play by Andrej Sekera to hit the stick of Jochen Hecht wide open in front for the easy deflection goal. A huge key on the play was the net presence of Thomas Vanek who occupied Michael Sauer and left Hecht wide open for the deflection.
The Rangers would answer only 1:20 later on a goal by Artem Anisimov to cut the Buffalo lead to 3-2. The goal never happens without Wolski and Anisimov's work on the initial forecheck or the pinch by Ryan McDonagh along the wall. Eventually the puck would work to Anisimov in the slot and he wouldn't miss giving the Rangers life with just under 16 minutes left.
With just over six minutes left, Mats Zuccarello got two golden chances in front with no Sabres defenders in sight. Miller would stop the initial shot and Zuccarello would get the rebound through the legs but Miller got his glove on it out of desperation to keep it out of the net.
Just over one minute left it would be Zuccarello again who got the puck wide open in front off of a beautiful play by Wolski, but Miller stoned him with the glove. Miller was out of position after the save, but the Rangers could not get a shot on net as Jochen Hecht tied up Erik Christensen in front.
- Zuccarello just cannot buy a goal.
- Ryan McDonagh played another outstanding game and this kid only impresses more with each time out there.
- Bryan McCabe and his blasts from the point actually make this power play watchable.
- 14-15-3 at home is absolutely horrific. Someone has to do something about it, especially the first periods. I have never seen a team play with less energy in the first period in their own building than this one does.
- Yes, the officiating was awful tonight. Yes, the awful officiating led to goals for Buffalo and maybe stopped us from getting some with our power play actually looking good. In the end though it doesn't matter because they aren't going to go back and undo it. Have to move on and look to Thursday and beat the Wild at home.