The New York Rangers certainty didn’t make it easy tonight, but they found a way to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 in regulation time. Two third period markers by Alexis Lafrenière and Mika Zibanejad fueled the Rangers’ comeback efforts as they took a two-goal lead. Igor Shesterkin was monumental tonight in goal for New York and kept the Rangers alive during their first half collapse.
Brendan Smith (5) - Unassisted - 2:22
Following an underwhelming start to the game, the Rangers needed more shots and Brendan Smith led by example. Early in the second period, the Rangers finally got some extended zone time and turned it into the opening goal of the game. An errant pass by Dylan Cozens deflected off of a skate and landed right in the high slot. Brendan Smith stepped in from the blue line to collect the puck and absolutely hammered a slap shot over the right shoulder of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Sam Reinhart (22) - Casey Mittelstadt (9) PPG - 19:56
Sam. Reinhart.— The Charging Buffalo (@TheChargingBUF) April 28, 2021
3.2 seconds remaining in the 2nd, Sabres tie the game.
Reinhart's 9th point in 8 games against the Rangers pic.twitter.com/nh1pcHVzWh
Throughout nearly 40 minutes of play, there was not a single penalty called in the game until the final minute of the second period. Filip Chytil was sent off for two minutes after tripping down Sam Reinhart just above the Rangers’ goal line. Reinhart would get his revenge just 29 seconds later as he opened up in the high slot for a quick one-timer and wired a shot under the crossbar. Igor Shesterkin never stood a chance on the play, and Buffalo tied up the game with just 3.2 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
Alexis Lafrenière (10) - Ryan Strome (31) & Adam Fox (42) - 9:49
Despite coughing up the lead late in the second period, the Rangers came out with a strong opening to the third period. Their hard work in the offensive zone eventually led to a golden opportunity in the high slot, and Alexis Lafrenière came up with a huge goal. Ryan Strome’s persistence behind the net forced a key turnover, and he immediately found Lafrenière waiting up top by the hashmarks. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen got a slight piece of the puck as it came in on goal, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the net.
Mika Zibanejad (20) - Chris Kreider (10) & Ryan Strome (32) PPG - 13:49
About four minutes later, the Rangers were able to take advantage of the Sabres’ penalty troubles and picked up a massive insurance marker. Following some pretty passing around on the man-advantage, Chris Kreider caught the pass while posted up at the top of the crease. He was unable to get a shot off with the puck in his feet, but found a way to shovel a no-look pass behind him to the far post. Mika Zibanejad was ready and waiting for the wide open chance and slammed home his 20th goal of the season to give New York a 3-1 lead.
It looked scary at certain points in the game, but the Rangers erased all of that with their effort in the third period and found a way to win. It’s a good thing they did too because the Boston Bruins won as well, which means the Rangers still remain four points out of the final playoff spot. Following tonight’s massive win, the Rangers will have a scheduled off day tomorrow before returning to action on Thursday night against the New York Islanders.