NEW YORK – Due to the language barrier, Rangers top-line center Artem Anisimov had trouble finding the correct word to describe the emotions inside the Rangers locker room after his second goal of the game won it for the Rangers, 3-2, in overtime. He said he felt “free.”
The word he may have been looking for was “relief.” It wasn’t the kind of game that constituted a “must win” for New York (8-7-1), but it was important.
After starting the season 2-5-1 at home, and winless heading into the third of four straight home games, it was important to get a win against Buffalo, languishing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 5-9-3 record.
“Huge win. We were struggling in our building, so it was a huge win,” said Marian Gaborik, who returned from a separated shoulder after four weeks on the shelf. “We scored a second goal in the second, they tied it up with two seconds left. It was a bummer, but we came back. Big goal by Artie. We needed that.”
It was a scrambled affair for both teams. The first four goals, two by each team, were scored by goal scorers within four feet of the net as defenders either forgot to cover, or weren’t physical enough to push the scorer out of the way.
“We’ve struggled at home, but there haven’t been a lot of games where we haven’t played well,” said emergency starter Martin Biron, who didn’t know he was starting until shortly after 5 p.m. when Henrik Lundqvist reported to MSG with flu-like symptoms. “We’ve played well a lot of those games, just didn’t go this way. Hopefully you take this first and third period, and overtime, and look at the things we did well.”
The second period was a defensive nightmare for both teams. With under 48 seconds left in the period, Anisimov got a loose puck off a soft pass from Brandon Dubinsky and sent it past Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth (25 saves).
But with 2.9 seconds left in the second stanza, the Rangers forgot to cover the front of the crease, allowing Mike Grier to stuff the puck past a stunned and defenseless Biron.
“Our second period stunk,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “What we did to them in the first period they did to us [in the second]. And then to allow that to happen, us score a big goal on them with a minute [left in the second period], and to have them come down, we lost battles.”
“Huge win. We were struggling in our building, so it was a huge win,” Gaborik said after taking three shots on goal in 18:40 of ice-time in his return. “We scored a second goal in the second, they tied it up with two seconds left. It was a bummer, but we came back.”
After a scoreless third period, Anisimov found the puck open in the slot 92 seconds into overtime and roofed it to give the Rangers their critical early season home win.
“It’s a battle by [Fedotenko]. It’s a great battle by Feds initially in the corner, and another one in the slot area,” Tortorella said. “And Artie, who’s done so many good things for us, scores a huge goal; second one of the night. That’s what Feds has done for us, just those little battles. It’s a grind for us to win a hockey game, and that’s a big win for us.”
“We go to 2-on-1 with Feds,” Anisimov explained. “I try to make play, I see sticks, drive to the net, make a play, missed, but after, see part available top cheese. Simple.”
“We played one good period and one lousy period. All we talked about in between (the second and third) period was trying to win a period, and that was the third,” Tortorella said. “We found a way. We certainly have things to work on as far as consistency.”
Ruslan Fedotenko had a third period goal waived off when referees Paul Devorski and Brian Pochmara lost sight of the puck, even though it was still loose in the crease.
“It’s a goal. I’m not complaining, but it’s a goal,” said Tortorella. “That’s three of them in the past week. That’s two of them for Feds. I never know what’s going to happen as far as [the referees] are concerned. It’s an adven – well, I just have no clue.”
With five goals on the season, Anisimov stands third on the team in goals. He has six points (2-4-6) in his last six games. The multi-goal game was his second of his career.
The Rangers penalty kill was solid again, posting a 2-2 mark. The kill is 11-12 (91.7%) in its last four games. The power play, though, failed to score for the eighth time this season, including a :39 five-on-three.