Recap: Mika Magic Sets Up Kreider for OT Hero

Recap: Mika Magic Sets Up Kreider for OT Hero
Dec 23, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) and New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) celebrate the goal by New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) against the Buffalo Sabres during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

With one final outing before the holiday break, the Rangers took on the Buffalo Sabers for the third time this season. The Rangers were fresh off a tough third period loss to the Edmonton Oilers the night prior as the Sabres were still riding high following their big 9-3 against Toronto two nights prior. In their two previous meetings this season, the score was 5-1 in both games with the Rangers winning opening night and the Sabres winning close to a month ago.

1st Period:

Another relatively slow start to the night as both teams exchanged icings and took an extra couple of minutes to settle into the night. Igor Shesterkin was tested early as Zach Benson saw an opportunity from close up in the slot that required a big save. About seven minutes in, Jonny Brodzinski moved the puck over to Ryan Lindgren at the slot who let a shot go through traffic and past Ukka-Pekka Luukonen to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead.

The Sabres sparked some offense once they started trailing but as the period went on, the Rangers continued spending time in Buffalo’s end. With about six minutes left in the first, the Rangers headed to the first power play of the night as Jordan Greenway was sent off for hooking Vincent Trocheck.

The Rangers completely dominated on the power play as they were moving the puck around incredibly well. Mika Zibanejad fed a pass over to Artemiy Panarin who ripped a shot from the point that sailed right through everyone in front of the net to make it a 2-0 game in favor of the Blueshirts.

It didn’t take long for Buffalo to push back as Jordan Greenway made up for the penalty he took as he made a great play to battle for the puck in the corner, sending a pass out to the point. It was Rasmus Dahlin wide open and alone up high in the slot who let a quick shot go that fired past Shesterkin to bring the Sabres within one, 2-1.

Rangers would take the 2-1 lead to the first intermission as they out-shot the Sabres 13-9 through the first twenty of the night. Special teams would act as the kicker for the Rangers in what was a fairly even game up to this point with good pace to it. The Sabres however were out-hitting the Rangers 6-1 and blocked a total of 10 shots in addition to the eight saves Pekka-Luukanen made.

2nd Period:

Would be a tough start to the second as the Sabres were quick to find themselves back on the scoreboard. The Rangers fell asleep a bit on defense and Jack Quinn ended up with the puck and let a shot go past Shesterkin to tie the game up at two apiece.

The Rangers continued to struggle through the early parts of the second as they were quite sloppy with the puck, turning it over on several occasions. Nearing the midway mark of the night, Blake Wheeler fed Chris Kreider with a one timer from up high in the slot. Zibanejad went hard to the net and put away the rebound to regain their lead to make it 3-2 Rangers.

Zibanejad’s goal really reignited the Rangers offense as they had a bit of a surge that followed. Alexis Lafrenière ripped a shot off the crossbar that was inches away from giving the Rangers a two goal lead.

A big hit from Will Cuylle on Ryan Johnson led to Erik Johnson challenging Cuylle to a fight. The two had quite the spirited scrap but because Erik Johnson was the third man in and started the fight, he earned the additional unsportsmanlike penalty.

Something about that did not sit well with the veteran defender as he got up and out of the penalty box and began yelling at the officials. As a result, Erik Johnson was given a ten minute misconduct on top of the five for fighting and two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct. Somewhere along the way there, Jeff Skinner must have expressed his dissatisfaction with the officials as he too was given a ten minute misconduct penalty which sent him back to the Sabres locker room along with Erik Johnson. Quite an unprecedented sequence of events.

The Rangers continued to look strong on the power play but Buffalo was matching that effort extremely well, blocking several shots throughout those two minutes. The Sabres kept the Rangers from converting on their second man advantage of the night and picked up a couple chances to end the second but the score stayed the same with the Rangers up 3-2. After forty minutes of play, the Rangers still had the edge in shots at 23-20 but Buffalo’s shot blocking was very much becoming the storyline as they had 18 blocks after two periods of play.

3rd Period:

The Rangers reverted to the team they were throughout their best moments of the night in the early parts of the period

About seven minutes into the third, Casey Mittlestadt got a stick on an attempted d-to-d pass from Braden Schneider in the corner of the Rangers zone. The puck bounced right out to the front of the net to which Mittlestadt was able to sneak one through Shesterkin to tie the game up yet again, 3-3.

The Rangers fourth line, who have quietly been so good for this team and was having a very solid night had an immediate chance to regain the lead but Pekka-Luukanen came up with the save to keep the game tied. Just over the midway mark, Jeff Skinner tripped up Jonny Brodzinski away from the play to give the Rangers their third power play chance of the night.

A Vincent Trocheck turnover at the point gave Alex Tuch a shorthanded attempt on a breakaway but Shesterkin was able to come up with a big save to keep the game tied.

Unable to convert on the man advantage, the teams returned to even strength with time beginning to run out. With close to three minutes left in regulation, Barclay Goodrow took the Rangers first penalty of the night which gave the Sabres a massive advantage. The Rangers were fantastic on the penalty kill and ended up drawing a hooking penalty on Rasmus Dahlin. The teams would skate 4-on-4 for 24 seconds before the Rangers would have the power play for the final minute of regulation.

There wouldn’t be enough time for the Rangers power play to get anything going which meant we were headed for some overtime hockey. Final tally on shots on goal through sixty minutes would be 32-27 in favor of the Rangers.


With 45 seconds of power play time remaining, the Rangers began overtime with a 4-on-3. There was enough time for the Rangers to get set up and it was Chris Kreider with a big chance as time on the penalty was expiring yet another blocked shot by Samuelsson kept the game going.

On the next shift, Casey Mittlestadt had a breakaway that Shesterkin turned away and then an odd man rush between Mittlestadt and Tuch resulted in another massive save from Shesterkin that had the Garden absolutely rocking.

Going back the other way with it, Mika Zibanejad pulled off such a patient move that drew Luukonen out of the net and gave Chris Kreider a wide open net to put the puck away and give the Rangers the 4-3 win.

Zibanejad picked up his third point of the night in what became quite the thrilling win. The definition of a feel good win to bounce back after a loss and head into the holidays riding high with. The Rangers now have 47 points with a record of 23-8-1 heading into Christmas which has them tied for first in the league with Vancouver and Vegas. Hard not to feel good about that. They’ll be right back at it after the three day break as they’ll host the Washington Capitals Wednesday Night.