Different year, same results.
The New York Rangers kicked off 2015 in convincing fashion, as they absolutely dominated the Buffalo Sabres tonight in route to a 6-1 victory at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers rattled off three consecutive power play goals to start off the game, and essentially put the game out of reach right from the get-go. Even though this appeared to be a relatively easy game for Henrik Lundqvist, he was tested quite a bit in this game and improved to 9-1-0 in his last ten appearances.
Right from the start, the Sabres made it extremely difficult on themselves as they handed the Rangers the first three power plays of the game. Given the amount of opportunities tonight, the Rangers power play was certainly firing on all cylinders, and is a very encouraging sign heading into their upcoming road trip to California.
Derick Brassard gave the Rangers their first and only lead of the night at the 8:46 mark, as he redirected a perfectly placed pass from Martin St. Louis. Right after the goal though, Ted Nolan was exchanging words with the officials and apparently crossed the line a little too far. The Sabres were assessed a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, which gave the Rangers their second consecutive power play.
A little over a minute into the ensuing power play, Chris Kreider extended the Rangers lead to 2-0 after breaking in all alone on Michal Neuvirth. J.T. Miller created the entire play with a beautiful seam pass through two defenders, sprung Kreider in on a breakaway, and he capped it off with a slick move to the backhand. Just as things appeared to be going downhill for the Sabres, things got even worse when they were given yet another penalty following the Kreider goal.
This time around it was Cody McCormick heading to the box as he hooked Kreider on his previous breakaway, and was forced to serve the two minutes because of the previous power play. With the third and final penalty close to expiring, Rick Nash put home his 24th goal of the season on a pretty little play from goal line, and popped the puck over Neuvirth's shoulder.
Just as the Rangers three goal outburst was starting to settle down, Dan Boyle responded with a goal of his own about a minute later. Rick Nash found Boyle all alone on the far side, and with plenty of time to work it, Boyle ripped a hard shot right under the bar to give the Rangers a commanding 4-0 lead. Following Boyle's goal, Neuvirth's night was pretty much over as Jhonas Enroth came in to relieve him of his duties.
After putting on quite the performance in the first period, the Rangers continued to pour it on in the second period where Carl Hagelin gave the Rangers a 5-0 lead. With the Sabres struggling after a long shift in the defensive zone, Carl Hagelin cycled back up to the high slot, and ripped a shot through traffic. The puck wound up going off of Mike Weber in front, and deflected in behind Enroth before he even knew the shot was released.
Just 20 seconds later, though, the Sabres finally broke through with their first goal of the night coming courtesy of Drew Stafford. Stafford was able to catch the Rangers napping off of the faceoff, broke into the zone with speed, and slammed home the wraparound on Henrik Lundqvist. About 12 minutes after Stafford got the Sabres on the board, Jesper Fast restored the Rangers five goal lead on a beautiful behind the back feed from Kevin Hayes.
At first, Enroth appeared to make the save on the goal line, but after about a minute of continued play, the war room from Toronto came calling. As per the new rules, the war room has the right to stop play immediately if they determine that a goal was scored on a previous play. As the replay eventually showed, Enroth saved the puck, but the puck fully crossed the goal line before it hit his pad.
Fast's goal was the last goal that was scored in this game, as the third period was a wash, and both teams were essentially killing off the clock. The Rangers started off the New Year on the right foot, and now face a tough California road trip starting off Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.