Rangers 5 - Buffalo 3 [Boxscore]
The Rangers won their third straight game tonight, their seventh in the past nine games. Going into the third period up 4-1 it looked like it was going to be an easy two points for the Rangers, but give the Sabres credit, they battled hard in the third period right up until Ryan Callahan scored an empty net goal with 25 seconds left in the game to make it 5-3. The Rangers got goals from four different forwards (Naslund, Drury, Callahan & Zherdev) and Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves to pull four points away from the 9th place Florida Panthers (who lost tonight to Columbus).
New York is now one point behind the Hurricanes (who won tonight) but the Rangers have played two games less and are now just two points behind the 5th place Pittsburgh Penguins who have also played a game more than the Rangers.
Tonight's game was physical as expected, with the feistiness starting in the first minute when Gomez was bumped by Lydman that sent Gomez to the ice and Zherdev skated right over to Gomez's defense. That was followed up by Sean Avery going over to Lydman and challenging him, all within the first few shifts of the game. Markus Naslund scored his 22nd goal of the season midway through the first and the Rangers left the 1st period with a 1-0 lead.
Early in the second period Chris Drury had a beautiful deflection while standing in front of the net on the Power Play that put the Rangers up 2-0. But, just 27 seconds later the Sabres scored to pull back within a goal. Just a few minutes later, the #1 star of the game Ryan Callahan took a beautiful pass from Dubinsky that split two defensemen and moved in on a semi-breakaway that resulted in a nice deke and goal. The Rangers went on to make it 4-1 thanks to a goal that was credited to Nik Zherdev which was intended to be a pass to Avery in front of the net but deflected off a Buffalo defenseman.
Best Moments of the game for me (besides the goals):
- Rangers rookie Lauri Korpikoski made a great move in the first period and used his speed while killing a penalty to get away from the Buffalo defense and was dragged down. It led to a penalty shot being awarded. Korpikoski's shootout effort was stopped by Lalime.
- Sean Avery up to his usual antics after the play: on one occasion slashing Kaleta in the back of the legs and another time grabbing Thomas Vanek's face shield and pulling on it for a second. Also, after a hit on Afinogenov it appeared that Dominic Moore wasn't happy and you could easily read Avery's lips saying "Wanna fight? Let's go! Let's go!"
- Several big hits: Kaleta with a big hit on Avery in the middle of the Rangers zone that sent the two of them to the ice. Then, later on Nik Antropov laid out a huge open ice hit in the Buffalo zone that sent Kaleta's helmet flying and put Kaleta on his back.
- Sean Avery on several occasions using his speed effectively to blow right by Sabres defensemen and getting good scoring chances.
- The ongoing rivalry between Kaleta and Mara is definitely entertaining