The New York Rangers were defeated by the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. For a box score, click here.
It seems to happen every year so we really shouldn’t be surprised. This team always hits a lull after Thanksgiving. And it’s always ugly. I said last month that I didn’t expect this team to crash like they did last year. I’m standing by that. I don’t think they are as bad as they look right now. But they probably weren’t as good as they looked through the first few weeks of the season either.
Simply put, this game was ugly. No matter how you look at it, eye test vs. possession stats, no one should come away with anything other than the right team won. The Rangers kept it close for two reasons – the Sabres can’t penalty kill and even though they’ve gotten better, they are still the Sabres.
Just nine seconds into the game, Kreider came in on a breakaway, fell down and was accidentally kicked in the head. He went straight to the locker room for concussion protocol. (Fortunately he was okay and able to return a couple of minutes later.) As MSG broadcast was watching him leave, the Sabres came up the ice and scored to take the early lead. From that point on, there wasn’t a lot of good for the visitors.
The Rangers were repeatedly hemmed in their zone, unable to even get near the puck nonetheless get possession of it. I honestly have no idea how the Sabres only had eight shots in the first period. It wasn’t due to anything the Rangers were doing.
With just under five minutes to go, the Rangers got the first power play of the game. Earlier today, when it was announced Clendening would play tonight, I said the following:
Can I pretend McDonagh saw my tweet? I know he didn’t but maybe the threat of actually losing power play ice time woke him up as he actually looked like someone who knew how to run a power play. It resulted in his first goal of the season and a tie game through twenty.
Early in the second, the Sabres got called for their second penalty, albeit a questionable one. And the Rangers made them pay again to take an honestly undeserved 2-1 lead. (They were getting killed 5v5 until that point.) The Sabres responded 93 seconds later. Somehow the Rangers got a bounce two minutes later to get the lead back. And they managed to keep that lead through one of their worst second periods of the year.
Actually they were dominated over the twenty minutes following Staal’s goal and somehow kept that lead until Clendening took a bad penalty with under eight minutes remaining. (He was tied up with Eichel and got away with the first hook/hold. When he continued to do it, they called it.) And Eichel made him pay. Less than two minutes later, he scored his second of the game which wound up the game winner.
I want to say the Rangers deserved better. They didn’t. I refuse to believe they played well at any point during this game when they didn’t. MSG kept mentioning how this is the first time this season they lost after having lead after forty. They didn’t earn or deserve that lead so of course they lost. Fortunately, from post game comments, the Rangers seemed to realize that. The question is if they can fix it before their rematch with the Hurricanes Saturday afternoon…
(Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)