Rangers Come Away with Two Points in Buffalo
After a mixed effort, the Rangers did enough to fend off their upstate counterparts Tuesday night.
The Rangers got the scoring started with their second powerplay goal in back-to-back games. After a quick self-imposed regroup in the neutral zone, Zucc set up Brassard on a breakaway with a saucer pass, which found 16 on the tape and in stride, breaking behind the defense who then went on to shelf it.
Zucc found the back of the net himself after a 2-on-1 turned 2-on-2 ended with Zucc squeezing it through the five hole from along the goal line.
From the get-go the Rangers had good traffic in front. This paid off with the third goal of the game from the stick of Fast when Kreider was parked at the top of the crease. After I previously stated Fast would never be able to finish, Fast has put one home in two of the last three games. Against Buffalo, Fast stepped into one just inside the blue line, and thanks to Kreider’s big body taking away the goalie’s sightline, was able to fit it low inside the post. Buffalo made the switch to the former Ranger Chad Johnson as a result.
During the contest, Fast and Hayes swapped places in the lineup as JT’s stint on the bottom line was short-lived. On Buffalo’s first goal, Eichel found Reinhart’s stick on an odd man rush to get on the scoreboard. On this play, Miller was less than a step away from catching Reinhart on the backcheck, but finished the chase flat-footed and was unable to break up the play. I found it interesting that this lackadaisical play did not force Vigneault to push Miller back to the end of the lineup again.
The Ranger’s lackluster effort continued, and the Sabers capitalized by making it a one-goal game. After a dump and change, Buffalo was able to move the puck up the ice, untouched, eventually culminating with a one-timer in the slot beating Raanta for the team’s second of the game. Not attacking the puck in the O-zone in the midst of a change is one thing. But letting a team walk through the neutral zone and across your blue line to find an open man in the slot is a perfect example of the lack of effort we have seen the last few games (i.e. three minutes vs. the Pens, opening minutes against the Isles). I am not even sure if effort is the right term, but whatever it is it cannot continue. Any lapse, whether mentally or physically, is inexcusable and will be exposed in the playoffs.
Staal nearly put in his second as a Ranger off a rebound in front. But, somehow Johnson was able to keep the puck from crossing the line. Many said Vigneault should have challenged; however, as history has dictated, if the Rangers did challenge they certainly would have lost (half not kidding).
In the third period, one of the more infuriating parts in recent memory occurred, and I apologize in advance for continuing to harp on the past. On a faceoff in the Ranger’s zone, Miller took to center, and who was on the ice? Stepan. Now, tell me how Miller, who is not a natural center, gets the nod to take the draw over a supposed top center? The same center who was entrusted to take a faceoff at the end of the Islanders’ game Sunday night just prior to the game-losing goal. I just don’t understand that thought process. If Stepan is good enough to take a game-changing draw, why is he not taking every faceoff he is on the ice for?
Moving on, the Rangers found themselves on the wrong side of a late third period penalty, again. Luckily, no harm was done. Miller, who played less than seven minutes in the game prior, was on the ice at the end of this game and put it out of reach with an empty net goal. Miller was previously snake bitten, and had failed to put one in during the previous month.
All-in-all, the Rangers left Buffalo with the sought after two points, doing so for the eleventh straight time following a regulation loss. However, they failed to thoroughly wash the bad taste out of its fans’ mouths from Sunday’s loss.
Looking ahead, the Rangers face a much more difficult foe in Detroit Sunday. Will we see our star tender back between the pipes? Will Nash participate in practice at full speed between now and then? What will the line-combos look like? What is the status of our two downed defensemen? Lots of answers should be communicated between now and game time.
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