Recap: Rangers Win Season Opener 5-1 Over Buffalo

Recap: Rangers Win Season Opener 5-1 Over Buffalo
Oct 12, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; The New York Rangers beat the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

After what has felt like the longest offseason in recent history, Rangers fans everywhere rejoiced in saying, “we are so back.” The Blueshirts kicked off their 97th campaign with a visit to their neighbors upstate, the Buffalo Sabres.

1st Period:

The puck dropped on the new season and once we got through the initial first day jitters, the Rangers were establishing good pace. Right off the bat, that second line of Artemiy Panarin, Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafrenière stood out and had a great look off the rush, resulting in one of their first scoring chances of the night. As that play was turning, Adam Fox along with Chytil, did a fantastic job of forcing a turnover at center ice. Chytil got the puck to Panarin who picked up his own rebound to pass it across to Lafrenière, who netted the first goal of the Rangers 2023-24 season.

From that moment on, the Rangers looked to be in control of the game. They were playing great defensively which limited Buffalo’s chances and they continued to find their stride offensively as the night went on. What originated as a boarding call against Chris Kreider, resulted in coincidental minors when Jordan Greenway went after the Rangers’ alternate captain following the hit he delivered on Henri Jokiharju. The team’s would skate four aside for the next two minutes but the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Rangers.

With eight minutes to go in the first, Zach Benson hooked Adam Fox who was in the process of handling a floating puck. The Rangers sent out their top power play unit and took only fifteen seconds to convert on the man advantage. Kreider was left all alone in front of the net, as was Fox at the Sabres blue line. Fox had all the time and space in the world which allowed him to send a perfect shot for Kreider to deflect into the back of the net, making it a 2-0 game.

Overall the Rangers got off to quite the ideal start, outshooting the Sabres 12-7 through the first twenty.

2nd Period

Within the first minute of period number two, Kaapo Kakko was tripped up by Jeff Skinner which gave the Rangers their second power play opportunity of the night. While they wouldn’t capitalize, both power play units got reps in and the second combination consisting of “the kids” and Blake Wheeler looked really good in the minute or so they were out there. Play went on and the pace continued to grow. Both teams exchanged chances as Erik Johnson came close to putting the Sabres on the board with a shot off the post that Lafrenière took the other way for a quality scoring chance. His line with Panarin and Chytil continued to be a highlight, as they eventually forced another Buffalo turnover that led to Panarin finding the puck in the slot, beating Devon Levi clean on the blocker side to make it 3-0.

The Rangers carried that lead through the majority of the second period but with a minute and a half to go, the Sabres found themselves on the board. Owen Power let a shot go that was blocked by Jacob Trouba, but allowed JJ Peterka access to a quick shot that beat Shesterkin high blocker.

Erik Gustafsson was sent off for interference shortly after the goal, which gave Buffalo a man advantage that would carry into the games final period.

3rd Period

The Rangers penalty killers hadn’t been tested up to this point, but would quickly become a key factor in the game’s storyline. The Rangers were doing everything in their power to block as many shots as they could and were succeeding in doing so. They’d eventually head back to the power play, courtesy of a Rasmus Dahlin cross-check on Chytil. However, it would end about a minute and a half in, as Chytil tripped up Zemgus Girgensons after making an aggressive play at the Sabres blue line to clear the puck.

Just as that penalty dwindled down, Vincent Trocheck was also awarded a tripping violation which gave Buffalo a brief advantage at 5-on-3. The Rangers continued blocking shot after shot and after one particularly courageous effort from Ryan Lindgren, Mika Zibanejad went the other way with it and Chris Kreider was able to put the puck in the back of the net for his second of the night.

The Sabres pulled Levi with two and a half to go and about a minute later, Jacob Trouba sent the puck across the ice into the empty net to cap this one off at 5-1. The Rangers outshot the Sabres with a final tally of 31-25 and blocked a total of 23 shots. They were perfect on the penalty kill and went 1/4 on the power play. Arguably their most impressive stat of the night was the fact that they won 63% of their face-offs, a department they historically struggle in.

A bit of a historic night as Igor Shesterkin earned his 100th career win and Adam Fox became the sixth fastest defenseman in NHL history to reach 200 career assists. (286 games, second fastest Ranger behind Brian Leetch)

Congratulations are also in order for Peter Laviolette and his staff for their first career win at the helm of the New York Rangers.

The Blueshirts are back at it on the road Saturday night as they’ll head to Columbus to take on Adam Fantilli and the Blue Jackets.