Sorry this is so late. None of us could catch the game, so Glen Miller took the recap for us. We kind of gave him late notice, and since he’s one of those crazy Ranger fans in California, he’s on PST. Thanks Glen, great job as always. Make sure to follow Glen on Twitter for great analysis.
Feel that Rangers fans? That’s the red-hot Penguins chasing down and on the verge of catching the Blue Shirts in both the Atlantic Division and conference standings. The Rangers grip on their lead grew more tenuous after dropping the final contest of their seven-game home stand to Buffalo last night, 4 – 1.
The loss leaves the Rangers one point ahead of Pittsburgh but the Penguins, winners of 13 of their last 14 and coming of a 5 – 1 drubbing of Vezina-caliber goalie Pekka Rinne and a tough Predators squad Thursday night, have a game-in-hand on New York.
Let’s get to the period-by-period breakdown of the game.
- The Rangers, led by the captain (the first Ranger player since Messier that can actually be referred to as simply “the captain,” although Messier was “the Captain”) started the game with a good forechecking shift. That line was credited with three hits and generated a couple of shots directed towards Miller.
- At the 8:48 mark of the period, Mats Zuccarello blocked a Jordan Leopold shot with his arm. Zuccarello would leave the game and not return. It was revealed on the MSG telecast that he fractured his wrist. In his post-game interview, Torts said Zuccarello would be out indefinitely so it now appears Fedotenko will get a chance to return to the lineup.
- A relatively quiet period would end with a flurry of Buffalo chances in the final 0:20. Hank stopped shots on goal by both Derek Roy and Tyler Myers while two other shot attempts were blocked by the fearless Rangers shot-blockers.
- Shots for the period were eight-to-six in favor of the Sabres. Neither team committed an infraction in the first twenty minutes.
- The Sabres would get off to a quick start in period two only to see six more shot attempts blocked by Ranger defenders within the opening three minutes of the frame. Rookie Travis Turnbull, son of former NHL’er Perry Turnbull and appearing in just his second career NHL contest, would notch his first career goal at 3:14 of the frame. After chasing down a loose puck behind the goal and absorbing a hit from Stu Bickel, Turnbull threw the puck towards the front of the net. John Mitchell, just off to the side of the cage in support of the defense, had the puck deflect off his right skate and by Hank for the goal. It wouldn’t be the last unfortunate play for Mitchell in this game.
- Just 0:54 later Dan Girardi would be called for holding Roy and putting Buffalo on their first and only PP of the night. The Rangers PK unit would get the better of the play, not allowing a shot while just missing on a couple of chances of their own to tie the game.
- The offensively-challenged Brian Boyle would finally draw the Blue Shirts even at 9:32 with his seventh tally of the season. With the marker, Boyle is now all the way up to 1/3 of his goal-scoring output of last season. Artem Anisimov would make the play that directly led to the equalizer as he made a brilliant no-look pass from behind the goal to Boyle stationed right out in front of Sabres netminder Ryan Miller. Not even Boyle could miss from there. The official play-by-play listed it as a nine-foot tip-in but having actually watched the game it couldn’t have been more than five feet away. Tim Erixon would pick up his first NHL point with a secondary helper on the Boyle goal.
- The Rangers would get their first man-advantage opportunity at 10:33 when young forward Tyler Ennis shot the puck into the crowd while in the defensive zone and under little, if any pressure from the enemy forecheck. The Rangers shockingly (sarcasm alert) would fail to convert on the PP and the game remained tied.
- The next unfortunate play I alluded to that Mitchell would be a part of happened soon after the Ranger PP expired. As he skated across the Sabres blueline, Del Zotto, recognizing the opportunity, moved in from his customary defense position to give Mitchell room and support. Unfortunately Mitchell lost control of the puck to rookie Marcus Foligno and with MDZ deep in the offensive zone Foligno was able to spring Buffalo on an odd-man rush. Drew Stafford would capitalize on the error by beating Hank with a snapshot for his 16th goal of the year and 6:17 left in the second.
- The teams would trade a couple of chances in the final minutes but nothing eluded either goaltender. Shots for the period were 13 – 8 in favor of Buffalo and the Sabres held a 21 – 14 advantage through two.
- The Rangers, possibly feeling a little desperation, pressed the issue early in the third and were rewarded with a gift of a PP at 2:42 when Christian Ehrhoff was whistled for tripping Anisimov. Ehrhoff vocally disagreed with the call and replays showed his skate might have contacted Anisimov but only slightly. That’s the type of play I’ve seen not called many a time. Nonetheless, the Rangers vaunted PP (second sarcasm alert) would again fail to draw the contest even despite Marian Gaborik getting a couple of great chances. Miller would stop Gaborik’s snapshot and also stone the subsequent rebound attempt from in close. All told Miller would finish with four saves during the Rangers man-advantage.
- It appeared briefly that New York had tied the game on a tally from Brandon Dubinsky but the goal was immediately waved off by the referee. The referee had evidently blown the whistle before the goal was scored though it was difficult to hear and it was unclear why the official had blown the play down. Replays though showed that Callahan had gloved a wrap-around clearing attempt down and Dubinsky was the first player to then touch the puck resulting in the correct call of a hand pass.
- Tyler Ennis would put the game out of reach with 6:00 remaining in regulation taking advantage of an offensive zone turnover by the Rangers and finishing off yet another odd-man rush with his 12th of the season assisted by Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno.
- All of 2:09 later, Drew Stafford would cap off the scoring potting his second of the evening and 17th of the schedule on, get this, another turnover and odd-man rush. Ennis would garner his third point and second assist of the contest.
- Final score: 4 – 1. Shots: 27 – 26 in favor of the Rangers. PP: Buffalo – 0 – 1. NYR – 0 – 2.
- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers!!!! Aside from Buffalo’s first fluky goal, each of the Sabres subsequent tallies resulted from Ranger turnovers leading to odd-man rushes. I understand when you’re down two late you have to force the issue and that can lead to 2-on-1’s or 3-on-1’s but the way the Rangers play turning the puck over in a tie game or even a goal down is inexcusable. I’m sure Mitchell’s mistake leading directly to Buffalo’s second marker was why we didn’t see him on the ice afterwards.
- What is up with Hank? A couple weeks ago he was easily the runaway winner of the Vezina but after a several mediocre outings of late his lead in the race, like that of the Rangers in the standings, is shrinking. Some in the Twitter world have linked his recent performance to his announcement that he and his wife are expecting their first child. That’s simply stupid considering he had known about his upcoming fatherhood for weeks before he released it publicly. Hank has always had stretches during the season where he has struggled and hopefully he gets it out of the way now and returns to form in the playoffs. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by his usually superlative play but I expected Hank to stop those odd-man rushes last night and he didn’t. He looked particularly “off” on the Ennis goal. He got part of the puck on that shot but not nearly enough and he just looked awkward on that play.
- The Ennis-Stafford-Foligno line killed the Blue Shirts last night. They combined for eight points (3g, 5a) last night and over the last seven contests have notched an incredible 30 points between them.
- The Rangers are back at it tonight but even with a win against the Leafs they might be looking up at the scoreboard to see how the Penguins are doing in their game with Ottawa. With last night’s loss and Pittsburgh owning that game-in-hand, the Rangers no longer “control their own destiny.” They’re going to need someone to step up and slow the Penguins down if they have designs on taking the first seed in the East.