A rebound-fest at Madison Square Garden allowed the Buffalo Sabres to lock up a big victory against a likely-playoff bound New York Rangers squad.
The Buffalo Sabres opened tonight’s tilt against the likely-playoff bound New York Rangers with their foot on the gas pedal, while that pedal was pinned to the floor.
Scoring did not begin for a few minutes, but it was clear that the Sabres were the better team.
Ryan O’Reilly opened up scoring for Buffalo after an innocent Zach Bogosian from the right wing side boards rebounded directly to the gliding O’Reilly. This goal goes in the books at O’Reilly’s 19th of the season, at 10:07 of the first period.
Minutes later, O’Reilly would be on the receiving end of another great setup. Jack Eichel raced down the left wing side into the Rangers’ offensive zone and grabbed the loose puck at the right time. Eichel continued to hold onto the puck until the absolute last second, when he flipped it over to a wide open Ryan O’Reilly. Without any hesitation, O’Reilly put home his 20th goal of the season, at 12:59 of the first period.
The tempo would not change as the game rolled over to the second period.
A beauty of a pass from Johan Larsson to Zemgus Girgensons allowed Girgensons to get a shot on goal. That wasn’t the important part of the play, the gigantic rebound that Lundqvist allowed was. Girgensons gobbled up his own rebound and went to the ice with his shot. The puck went high over Lundqvist’s left shoulder for Girgensons’ 7th goal of the season, at just 46 seconds into the second period. This is where Lundqvist was pulled for Antti Raanta, with the Sabres up 3-0.
The Rangers would finally get on the board, mostly in part due to a fantastic setup from Eric Staal. Jimmy Hayes was trailing the play, when Staal set up Hayes perfectly from behind the goal line. Hayes’ 13th of the season, at 2:58 of the second, cut Buffalo’s lead to 3-1.
As the period progressed, the Rangers were certainly trying to mount an offensive push but it just did not appear to totally be there for them tonight.
Buffalo’s 4th goal was setup by a very strong Cal O’Reilly check behind the Rangers net. O’Reilly poked the puck free, which it ended up directly on Matt Moulson’s stick. Moulson threw the puck on net, and quickly gobbled up the rebound. Moulson, from his knees, flipped a backhand into the net. Moulson’s 7th goal of the season, at 13:09 of the second period, gave Buffalo a 4-1 lead.
The Rangers would slowly continue to chip away at the Sabres lead.
With less than a minute to go in the third period, Ryan McDonagh launched a shot from the point but the shot ended up going wide and bouncing off the boards. Luckily for New York, J.T. Miller was in the right place at the right time. Miller grabbed the rebound off the boards and quickly tapped it in for his 22nd goal of the season, at 19:25 of the second period.
Heading into the third period, the Buffalo Sabres held a 4-2 lead over the New York Rangers.
The Rangers comeback would come to an end shortly into the third period when they scored their third and final goal of the game. A Chris Kreider shot was deflected by Derek Stepan to the left of Chad Johnson, and into the net. Stepan’s 19th goal of the season brought New York within one goal, at 4:52 of the third period.
As mentioned, that is where the Rangers comeback would come to a close. Buffalo would hold on for a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers.
This win brings Buffalo to 33-35-11 on the season, with an impressive 77 points.
We head into the final week of the regular season, where the Sabres will play their final three games. But for now, the quick hits.
- Twenty Goal Scorers
It's the 1st time BUF has had 4 20-goal scorers in their age 25 seasons or younger since 1987-88 (Andreychuk, Housley, Ruuttu and Sheppard).
— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) April 2, 2016
But I’ll sit here and wait so you can tell me how Buffalo’s rebuild is not going as good as it can be.
- Points, Points, Points.
There are three games left in the 2015-16 season for the Buffalo Sabres. They are 3 points away from 80 points.
How huge is that?
Well, the Buffalo Sabres have not accumulated 80+ points since the 2011-12 NHL season. Things have been bad for that long. We are (hopefully) on the upswing. Mind blowing to see this rebuild thing happen before our eyes, but this team isn’t so bad.
- Chad Johnson.
It feels like almost every game these days, we are talking about something ridiculous Chad Johnson has done. Today, we are talking about this ridiculous save he made.
WHAT A SAVE BY JOHNSON! pic.twitter.com/5D0k1P9f64
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) April 3, 2016
I would like to believe that the Buffalo Sabres will do whatever they can to make sure Chad Johnson is in blue and gold next season, but as his performance continues to improve, it is hard not to think that his price is just skyrocketing through the ceiling.
Johnson is a very competent backup, but as we have seen throughout this season, he may be able to start and be relatively successful given the right situation. Either way, mark me down as a Chad Johnson fan.