The New York Rangers bounced back this evening after a frustrating loss to the Ottawa Senators, and defeated the Buffalo Sabres by a final score of 6-3. Fueled by Derrick Brassard's five-point night, the Rangers head into the All-Star with a feel-good win under their belt and a three point cushion on the New York Islanders. After a roller coaster-like first half, the upcoming break may be a blessing in disguise for the Rangers, as they will have plenty of time to recoup before play resumes next week.
After a rather miserable performance yesterday afternoon, the Rangers made sure they had a strong start tonight, and they were instantly rewarded. Just five minutes into regulation, Keith Yandle set up Dylan McIlrath on the far point and McIlrath ripped a booming shot on net. At first, the puck appeared to deflect off of J.T. Miller in front, but it was later determined that it went off Rasmus Ristolainen's stick in front. Either way, it gave the Rangers the early 1-0 lead and they got the crowd into it early on.
Following the strong start, the Sabres settled into their game a bit and the play started to even to even out at both events. Eventually, the Sabres evened up the game with under four minutes remaining in the first period, and the goal came courtesy of Brian Gionta. It came off of a wacky deflection off to the side of the net, and it fooled Henrik Lundqvist just enough to slip over the goal line.
Later on in the second period, Viktor Stalberg's impressive individual effort put the Rangers up 2-1 and they went into the intermission with a one-goal lead. The Rangers carried that momentum over to the third period, where Derick Brassard capitalized off of a beautiful feed from Jesper Fast, and gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Following the early goal, the Rangers were caught by surprise and Zemgus Girgensons scored twice within a matter of a minute.
The first goal came off of broken play in the corner, and the puck eventually worked its way out to Girgensons in front of the net. With just inches to work with, Girgensons snapped the puck just under the crossbar and brought the Sabres back within a goal. A few moments later, it was Girgensons scoring again on a breakaway created by Jack Eichel, and he flipped the puck over Lundqvist.
At this point, it looked as if it was all going downhill for the Rangers, but found a way to respond almost immediately. Exactly a minute later, J.T. Miller chopped home a loose puck on a 3-on-2 rush and restored the one goal lead. From that point on, the Rangers got back to playing their game and eventually found an insurance goal on the power play. This time around, it was Mats Zuccarello, who capped off a beautiful passing between himself and Derek Stepan, and rifled the puck past Chad Johnson.
With about 40 seconds remaining, Derick Brassard finished off his five-point night with one final empty-net goal, and gave the Rangers a bug 6-3 win. Despite the horrific minute and a half during the third period, the Rangers had a nice little bounce back performance. It also came at the the perfect time, with the All-Star break looming, and they can head into it with a good feeling within the room.
When play picks up next week, it will be an all out sprint to the playoffs, and the Rangers need to be ready right out of the gate. With the Rangers out of commission for at least a week, stay tuned here for plenty of updates regarding the upcoming 2016 NHL All-Star game.