The New York Rangers continued to roll tonight, and earned their fourth consecutive win with a 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Mackenzie Skapski, appearing in just his second NHL game, earned his first career shutout in the win, and extended his record to 2-0-0. As a result, this is the first time in franchise history that three separate goaltenders have earned at least one shutout during a single season.
In addition to Skapski's milestone, Keith Yandle also registered his first goal as a New York Ranger, and was credited with the game winning goal for tonight's game. Since being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes at the trade deadline, Yandle has been playing very well, and it was only a matter of time before he broke the ice. With the expected absence of Kevin Klein, Yandle's role will likely be expanded quite a bit, and hopefully we will see more of what happened tonight.
The first two periods of this game were a bit of a struggle for the Rangers, and they weren't able to get anything behind Anders Lindback. They definitely had quality chances throughout the first 40 minutes, but a combination of sloppy play, the goal post, and some bad luck stood in their way. Speaking of the goal post, the Rangers hit the iron on four separate occasions tonight, and could have put this game away early on if they capitalized on their chances.
Unfortunately, they weren't able to handle their business early on in this game, and were forced to start the third period deadlocked at 0-0. The Rangers were obviously playing with fire by letting the Sabres hang around for as long as they did, but they extinguished that fire early on in the third period. After regrouping at center ice, the Rangers forced the Sabres to make a play behind their own net, and Chris Kreider came flying in to collect the loose puck.
Martin St. Louis was stationed up high along the half wall, and dished a quick pass up to Keith Yandle who was just inside the blue line. Yandle was able to snap a quick wrist shot around the oncoming Nicolas Deslauriers, and it slipped in behind Lindback for the 1-0 lead. One of Yandle's biggest attribute is his patience with the puck, and that allowed him to not only find the open ice, but also get a clean shot through the traffic in front of the net.
After grabbing the lead early in the period, the Rangers pretty much locked down the rest of the game, and continued to hound the Sabres in their own end. With under a minute remaining in the game, the Sabres elected to pull their goaltender in search of the game tying goal. Martin St. Louis had other plans though, as he stripped the puck from Nikita Zadorov at the center red line, and tossed the puck into the empty net.
That goal sealed the deal for the Rangers, and Mackenzie Skapski responded accordingly at the other end of the ice. With that win, the Rangers move back into first place in the entire NHL, and also move three points ahead of the New York Islanders for the Metropolitan Division lead. The Rangers will be right back in action tomorrow night as they head back to Madison Square Garden to welcome the Florida Panthers at 5:00 PM.