It certainly wasn't pretty by any means, but the New York Rangers found a way to rebound and they defeated the Buffalo Sabres by a final score of 4-2. Being that the Sabres are near the bottom of the league, it is a being inexcusable for the Rangers to struggled as bad as they did in the third period. Not to mention, the Sabres were also on the second half of a back-to-back, while the Rangers were fully rested.
The Sabres probably deserved to tie it up late in the third period but Antti Raanta also responded with an exceptional game in between the pipes. Aside from the third period though, the Rangers did a good job of controlling the play, and they chased Robin Lehner early in the second period. The Rangers wound up getting the first goal of the game just seven minutes into regulation, as Derick Brassard tallied his 24th goal of the season.
Mats Zuccarello made an excellent read to find Brassard slipping in behind the defensemen, and he hit him with a beautiful breakout pass to spring the breakaway. Brassard had plenty of time to pick his spot and absolutely bombed a shot over the shoulder of Robin Lehner. That wound up being the only goal of the period, but the Rangers picked up right where they left off in the second period.
Just 4:38 into the middle frame, Mats Zuccarello picked up his second point of the night after receiving a great pass from Derek Stepan, and slipping it through the five-hole. Lehner did a horrible job of cutting down the angle, and Zuccarello made him pay for his mistake by making it a 2-0 game. The Rangers wouldn't stop just there, though, and moments later Jesper Fast made it a three goal lead.
The Sabres were unaware of Fast coming late into the zone and Derick Brassard fed him a perfect pass which allowed Fast to tee up a one-timer. With Kreider planted in front of the net, Lehner was unable to locate the long distance shot, and it sailed right under his arm. At that point, the Rangers were in a great position to take control of the game, but unfortunately, they quickly let it slip away.
Within a matter of six minutes, the Sabres scored twice to make it a one goal game, and suddenly the Rangers were back on their heels. Sam Reinhart and Johan Larsson were the goal scorers for the Sabres, which set the tone for a big third period. Ever since the second goal by the Sabres, the Rangers were unable to gain any sort of momentum, and the Sabres took it to them in the third period.
The Sabres were able to generate 19 total shots in just the third period alone, and thankfully, Antti Raanta was there to clean up the mess. The Rangers looked absolutely lost and just couldn't contain the Sabres in the defensive zone. As time ticked down to the final minute, the Rangers were able to relieve the pressure one final time and J.T. Miller sealed the game with the empty net goal.
It was disappointing to see the Rangers struggle against an inferior team, especially with them being a tired team, but at the end of the day they secured two points. Thankfully, the Rangers will now have the rest of the week off to rest up, and prepare for the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon. The Rangers should be getting the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, and Rick Nash back around then, so that should give them some more rested bodies.