This post began as a reaction to ReverseLife's post here. I started out writing a comment which turned into an hour of writing, so I thought a post would be better - my apologies if I chose poorly.
As tough as it was to see this game go to the sabres, it was a great game. There were great defensive stands made by both teams, fast play - with lots of scoring chances, and hard hitting. Overall, it was a great and exciting tilt.
While the rangers could have used a little more veteran scoring presence and luck, a bigger rink and/or smaller goalie pads would not, in and of themselves, have enabled them to win tonight.
As for the ice size, has any one watched European hockey? The speed and physicality of the game is greatly reduced. Teams play offensive systems which include numerous neutral zone regroups, if the perfect play isn't there. A bigger sheet of ice creates more room at the expense of the speed and physicality which ultimately makes hockey more boring and less exciting. A bigger surface does not create more scoring chances - it merely guarantees that every team will play some version of the trap, at worst or that odd-man rushes are mostly eliminated from the game as defenders have much more time to recover, at best.
In regard to increasing net size and reducing the size of goalie equipment, I do not see a reason for doing either as there is no need to increase scoring arbitrarily, league wide. If the only way teams could win games was by shutout, then there maybe a problem but I don't see that as the case. Further, trying to arbitrarily increase scoring would probably backfire much like the attempt to speed up the game when the NHL eliminated tagg-up offsides in the late 90's. All it did was slow down the game and prevent teams from establishing a forecheck by forcing teams to trap in the neutral zone. Further, defense is just as much a skill set as offense and the excitement of any sport is generated by the tension between the two. So increasing offensive output by disadvantaging the defense will not make hockey any more exciting. In fact, hockey would become more boring. Close games are exciting, deeply painful(like last night) or delightful; they create the rivalries which fuel our game and the passions which fuel us as fans. It's high time we recognize defensive play is just as skillful as offensive play and that great skill on both ends of the ice creates the most exciting hockey.
Do I think the game is perfect? Absolutely not. The biggest problem I see in the game is non-goalie player equipment, which is the next place the NHL needs to place strict regulations. Specifically, the shoulder pads now used look and feel more like football pads in the sense they don't absorb shock, they transmit and reflect it - directing all of the hitters force on target. So when they make contact with soft tissue or the head, an injury is much more likely to happen; the same goes for elbow pads. The players feel too well protected when they suit up and they don't realize how dangerous a hit could be because players assume the other guy is just as well protected - even though that may not be true at the time. On a bigger sheet these catastrophic injuries may increase because players will make contact at higher speeds and therefore at much greater forces.
The bottom line is player health is must be the priority for the game and equipment changes that could reduce player injury must be considered ahead of other concerns.