For the first time in over three decades, the Rangers swept the season series against the Buffalo Sabres after last night’s 3-2 shootout victory at the HSBC Arena. Scott Gomez got the game-winner in the third round after both Brendan Shanahan (in the first round) and Jason Pominville scored (in the third). Gomez made a beautiful move around Ryan Miller; he faked to the right and then tucked the puck just inside the left post while Miller was in a spread-eagle position.
With the win, the Rangers moved up into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with the Ottawa Senators, both clubs have 12 games remaining and are just three points behind the leading New Jersey Devils. The Blueshirts have now earned a point in 13 straight games (10-0-3).
Coming off a 1-0 shootout victory the night before, it was surprising to see the Rangers give up a goal just 16 seconds in, but you never know what’s going to transpire in this great game of hockey. Pominville picked up a loose puck right in front of Lundqvist, only seconds after the puck was dropped at center ice, and neatly slid it in around the netminder’s outstretched right leg (for this 23rd of the season). But the Blueshirts answered back quickly when Fedor Tyutin beat Miller at 1:22 (his fifth) with a shot that should have been stopped.
With two goals in 82 seconds, it looked as if this game was going to be a wild one, but that was not the case at all. Both teams settled down and played defensively sound and the first frame ended even at one, though the shots on goal favored the visitors 8-4.
Jaromir Jagr notched his 18th of the season and 41st career goal against the Sabres at 8:26 (tying Peter Stastny for most goals versus the Sabres all-time) of the second to give the Ranges their first lead of the game. That advantage lasted less than six minutes because Buffalo finally converted on a power-play at 14:14 with a goal by Steve Bernier (his 16th).
The period ended deadlocked again but the Rangers were guilty of taking too many penalties, although they didn’t appear to be getting a fair shake from the officials. Fredrik Sjostrom was called for goalie interference at 13:39 and he was obviously pushed into Miller by the Sabres’ defender. The incident was right in front of the referee, but the call was made anyway. Because the Sabres scored the equalizer on the power-play, the questionable ruling made a difference. Overall, the Sabres had eight manpower advantages, including a two minute five-on-three early in the second. The Rangers, however, had just three power-plays and only two of them were for the full two minutes.
After a scoreless final frame which ended with some more questionable officiating involving Colton Orr and the Sabres’ bench, the five minute extra session ensued. In the overtime, neither team score, but both had a great chance to do so with less than a minute remaining. Maxim Afinogenov had a clear cut breakaway and was thwarted by Lundqvist and then seconds later, Nigel Dawes rang one off the crossbar.
The shootout was won when Gomez beat Miller and the surging Rangers had another two points. Lundqvist finished with 19 saves in a winning effort and Miller stopped 24 shots. The Blueshirts are off to the Sunshine State for a two game stint. First up are the Florida Panthers on Friday night and then they‘re off to Tampa Bay the very next night.