New York Rangers open season strong, dominate Sabres 5-1

The New York Rangers opened their season in style with a dominant performance from start to finish.

While some may have had doubts after a 1-5-0 preseason record, the Blueshirts looked like the Stanley Cup contenders they were projected to be. After the final buzzer sounded, the Rangers took down an up-and-coming Sabres squad easily to the tune of 5-1.

“A good start, the way we wanted,” a winning Peter Laviolette remarked. ” The penalty kill was absolutely courageous the way they blocked shots… It’s one game and there were positives to pull from– the guys played really hard.”

Related: Can Artemi Panarin crack the 100 points mark?

New York Rangers 5 vs Buffalo Sabres 1

NHL: New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

In the opening period, the Rangers had a pep to their step and an attention to detail that wasn’t evident during exhibition games. It helped set up Alexis Lafreniere to go down in the record books for scoring the first goal of the 2023-24 campaign.

On an aggressive play in the neutral zone, Filip Chytil stole the puck and headed it up to Artemi Panarin. The Breadman took a shot and got to his own rebound to find a streaking Lafreniere for a tap in past Devon Levi at the 3:37 mark.

“It was a good start for us, and good to get one early,” Lafreniere said on the MSG broadcast. “We all know what type of player Bread is, and how many plays he makes in a game. So I just try to get open and make plays too.”

One of the Rangers’ biggest preseason issues was an abysmal power play that scored just once on 21 tries. That now seems like a distant memory as they scored on their first regular season attempt, taking all of 16 seconds of a two minute minor on Zach Benson for hooking to do it.

Mika Zibanejad moved the puck quickly to Adam Fox at the point, who sent a wrist shot that Chris Kreider deflected to make it 2-0. For Fox, it was the 200th assist of his amazing career in just his 286th game. Only Brian Leetch did it faster with the Blueshirts (200 assists in 264 games).

When the period ended, the Rangers outshot the Sabres by a 12-7 margin, with Igor Shesterkin making the saves when needed.

The Rangers got off to a slower start in the middle frame offensively, but remained sharp on defense.

It was on another aggressive neutral zone play, this time by Lafreniere, to force a turnover by star defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Panarin jumped on the loose puck in the offensive zone to snipe it by Levi unassisted at the 12:49 mark.

Per the Rangers PR Team, this is Panarin’s 100th multi-point game, the sixth most in the NHL since the 2019-20 season.

The Sabres eventually broke through off a fortuitous bounce after a Jacob Trouba blocked shot went on JJ Peterka’s stick to beat Shesterkin with 1:30 remaining.

Buffalo started the third period on the power play as Erik Gustafsson was called for interference at 19:32. New York was able to kill it thanks to several big blocks from Nick Bonino and Trouba to keep the two-goal margin.

The Rangers were awarded a power play at the 7:18 mark when Dahlin cross-checked Chytil. However, a tripping call on Chytil followed by another from Vincent Trocheck put the team in a precarious situation.

New York, who also struggled in the preseason on the PK, came up huge with a number of blocks led by Ryan Lindgren. The gutsy Blueshirts took that momentum the other way as Zibanejad out-muscled the Sabres and found a trailing Kreider for a shorthanded goal. K’Andre Miller was awarded the secondary assist.

Up 4-1, the Rangers made sure to be smart with the puck in all three zones looking to lock down the 100th win of Igor Shesterkin’s career.

Despite pulling Levi for an extra attacker, the Rangers’ defenders were active with their sticks taking away shooting lanes and deflecting passes. Eventually, the tough defense led to an empty-net goal from the captain Jacob Trouba, who sent it down the middle of the ice almost 200 feet. Zibanejad and Kreider notched assists.

When the game ended, the Rangers special teams was a difference by going 1-4 on the PP, and a perfect 3-3 on the PK with a shorthanded tally. New York also showed their mettle with 23 blocks.

Rangers Notes

  • Igor Shesterkin notches 100th career win with 23 saves on 24 shots
  • Chris Kreider scored twice and added an assist (power play and shorthanded)
  • Mika Zibanejad registered 3 assists
  • Alexis Lafreniere picked up a goal on 3 shots, +2 rating
  • Artemi Panarin recorded a goal and an assist
  • Adam Fox picked up his 200th career assist
  • Will Cuylle led the team with 4 hits

The Rangers will now travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

Laviolette will have his charges back on the ice for a 1:30 p.m. ET practice at the OhioHealth Ice Haus.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

Mentioned in this article:

More About: