The New York Rangers had yet another opportunity to punch their ticket to the playoffs, and yet again, they failed to get the job done. The Rangers gave up three consecutive goals to open up the game, and even though they battled back, it wasn't enough to overcome the Buffalo Sabres. Over the last two games the Rangers haven't had a solid 60 minute effort, and being that the Hurricanes and Sabres aren't in the playoff race, that is extremely concerning.
Henrik Lundqvist, who was basically left out to dry by his teammates, was yanked just 46 seconds into the second period tonight. Ryan O'Reilly was able to get the Sabres on the board at the 10:07 mark of the first period, after a rebound was left uncontested just above the crease. O'Reilly was able to corral the loose puck, and quickly rifled a shot just under the crossbar to make it a 1-0 game.
Almost three minutes later, O'Reilly notched his second of the game after receiving a ridiculous centering pass from Jack Eichel. Derek Stepan, who was the lone forward back on the play, did an excellent job of cutting off the passing lane, but Eichel just beat him with a better pass. Lundqvist didn't stand much of a chance once the puck was sent over to the right side and the Sabres were able to double up their lead.
After the boo birds rained down at the end of the period, the Rangers didn't give their fans much hope early on in the second period. Just 46 seconds into the middle frame, the Sabres found their third goal of the game, as Zemgus Girgensons scored off of a diving effort just inside the hash marks. Yet again, the Rangers failed to lock down the front of their net and as a result, they found themselves in a 3-0 hole.
Right after that goal was scored, Antti Raanta entered the game for Henrik Lundqvist, and hoped to spark the Rangers for the remainder of the game. About a minute after the Sabres third goal, the Rangers finally found an answer and got on the board courtesy of Kevin Hayes. Eric Staal made it all happen with a beautiful power move behind the net, and he finished it off with a slick pass out to the front of the net.
Staal put the puck right on Hayes' stick and he rifled it home for his 13th goal of the season. The Rangers were clearly energized after the goal, and kept the pressure up for the remainder of the second period. However, a costly turnover a little past the midway mark wound up burying the Rangers once again. Keith Yandle was caught napping after a breakout attempt, and a poke check by Cal O'Reilly dangerously sent the puck out in front of the net.
Matt Moulson was able to beat the Rangers to the puck, and slammed the puck home after several swats. The goal gave the Sabres a 4-1 lead, and at that point, the Rangers looked all but done. Thankfully though, J.T. Miller gave the Rangers a sense of hope late in the period after he buried a fortunate bounce off of the end boards. That made it a 4-2 game heading into the third period, with the Rangers looking to complete the comeback.
Sure enough, just 4:52 into the third period, Derek Stepan was able to pull the Rangers within a goal by deflecting a puck at the top of the crease. From that point on, the Rangers dominated a majority of the third period, but they weren't able to find the game tying goal. The Rangers even had a late 5-on-3 opportunity that went unanswered, and despite the heavy pressure, the Rangers just ran out of time.
Of course, this all could have been avoided if the Rangers had a stronger start to the game. After two failed attempts to clinch a playoff spot, the Rangers will have another opportunity on Monday when they faceoff against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The third time is a charm.......right?