Rangers fall in SO to Sabres, need help to move up standings

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers were once again left befuddled by young Buffalo Sabres goalie Devon Levi.

After falling to the 21 year-old in his NHL debut on the road almost two weeks ago, the kid made 26 saves and turned aside four of five shootout tries for the victory.

The shootout loss brings the Rangers record to 47-21-13 for 107 points. New York is still chasing the New Jersey Devils for second place in the Metro, who have 108 points but a game in hand.

In addition, the first place Carolina Hurricanes lost yesterday and stay at 109 points with two games remaining to the Rangers’ one. If the Blueshirts can beat the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and the Devils and Hurricanes lose out they could take the division.

Should the Canes pick up a single point, the Rangers can’t pass them. If the Devils only register one point in their next two, the Blueshirts would hold the tiebreaker and claim second place and home ice advantage in round one.

Rangers need help to move up

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It was not a good start for the home team as they faced a hungry Sabres squad fighting to stay alive in the east wild card race.

JJ Peterka opened the scoring at the 14:24 mark of the first period off a nice net-mouth feed from Jack Quinn. Igor Shesterkin (37 saves) was brilliant in this contest to hold the Sabres to just one goal after the Rangers were outshot by a 14-4 margin to start the game.

In the second period, the Rangers came to life thanks to Artemi Panarin’s two goals.

His first came on the power play as he sniped one by Levi to even things up 61 seconds into the middle frame. Mika Zibanejad registered an assist to bring his season totals to 90 points. Patrick Kane grabbed the other helper.

The Breadman would give the Rangers a lead off a wicked release a little over 10 minutes later. On the play, Vincent Trocheck kept the play alive in the corner and should’ve been credited with an assist. Vladimir Tarasenko retrieved the puck and found Panarin on the other side for the tally.

That was Panarin’s 91st point of the year making it three out of four seasons with the Rangers to register at least 90 points. The talented winger recorded 58 points in 42 games during the COVID shortened season of 2020-21.

From there, Levi shut the door on the Rangers making several big stops the rest of the way.

Casey Mittelstadt would be the Sabres hero on this night after capitalizing on K’Andre Miller’s inability to control a pass. Alex Tuch grabbed the fumbled puck and went backhand on Shesterkin but Mittlestadt was there to put home the rebound in the third period.

A scary moment occurred with the Sabres on the power play in OT. Defenseman Ryan Lindgren, who earlier won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, blocked a Jeff Skinner shot with his face.

The defensemen went down and ran directly to the locker room leaving everyone holding their breath. He came back a few minutes later sporting a bloody red spot on his right cheek.

“I went down to block it,” Lindgen said. “I guess I got pretty lucky as it grazed me. It got my cheek a little bit but I’m alright.”

In the shootout, Levi showed incredible patience in by outlasting the dekes of Kane, Zibanejad, and Panarin. After watching Mittlestadt give the Sabres the advantage on a backhand, he stoned Kaapo Kakko for the win.

“You have to give the kid in the net a lot of credit,” Gerard Gallant noted. “Both goalies were good tonight but he made some key saves for them.”

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

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