Rangers rookies save the day with 3-1 win over Sabres; East playoff races tighten

alexis lafreniere
Apr 27, 2021; New York, NY, USA; Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers celebrates his goal at 9:49 of the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on April 27, 2021 in New York City. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

A pair of New York Rangers rookies saved the day as both Igor Shesterkin and Alexis Lafrenière played the heroes. The Blueshirts desperately needed to beat the Sabres as the Bruins won their contest against the Penguins. However, the victory did even more for the Rangers. It sets up a must win two-game sweep of the Islanders starting Thursday in their hunt for the playoffs. Should they do so, they will be only one point behind the Islanders with four games left to play.

Rangers vs Sabres: Shesterkin and Lafrenière play hero

Either the Rangers came out slow or they didn’t believe the Sabres would play that fast and hard in the opening period. “I just thought they were playing faster than we were,” David Quinn explained after the game. “There really is just no other answer for what happened in the first period…You play back to back and you win the first one the way we did, I think human nature kicks in, I don’t care what is at stake. I just thought they were the hungrier team at the start of the game and we were fortunate to get out if it 0-0.”

That’s because Igor Shesterkin saved the Blueshirts bacon in the opening stanza by making 16 saves. In total, he faced 37 shots, only letting in a power play goal with 3 ticks on the clock in the second. “Today we played a very smart hockey game defensively and offensively and the result was as it should have been,” Igor said, likely referring to periods two and three. “We’re giving ourselves a chance to fight for the playoffs.”

new york rangers
Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Smith opened the scoring for the Rangers in the second period, as the team unloaded a total of 41 shots with only six of them coming in the first. In the third period of a tie game, it was emerging young star Alexis Lafrenière that scored the game winning goal with Mika Zibanejad sealing the 3-1 win on the power play.

The first overall pick has now put lofty expectations and a slow start behind him with confident play. Ryan Strome who made the feed said he heard Lafrenière screaming for the puck before he fired it home. “He’s really played well lately, and he’s been playing well for about month now,” Quinn said. “He’s having a really good rookie year. With no training camp, no exhibition games, it’s hard for these young players to get acclimated to the National Hockey League and if he had a three week camp and 6 exhibition games the beginning of the season might’ve been a little bit different.”

Lafrenière now has 10 goals on the year to go with eight assists in 50 games. Since the turning point of the season for the Rangers on March 17th, the rookie has picked up 11 of those points in the last 23 games. “It speaks to his commitment, his coach ability, and his love for the game,” Quinn sad. “And that really jumps out at you when you coach him, how much he loves hockey. What an infectious personality he has on top of all the talent he has.”

The East Playoff Race Snapshot

The Capitals came into action a point behind the Penguins in the battle for first. After a tough 60 minutes against the struggling Islanders, they took sole possession of the top spot in the East with a 1-0 win.

The Islanders have had a rough month of April so far going 7-5-1 for 15 points. Not bad, but both the Rangers and Bruins continue to narrow the gap picking up 22 and 21 points respectively as each won last night too. The Caps (18 points) and Pens (19) also widened the gap putting the Islanders in a precarious spot down the stretch.

Taylor Hall is really settling into a groove with the Bruins as he picked up his fourth goal since the trade from Buffalo. Boston avenged their 1-0 loss to the Penguins on Sunday with a 3-1 win yesterday. The Bruins are 7-2 after the Hall trade. Boston has lost the previous two games before his acquisition.

Meanwhile, the Rangers remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Things looked bleak after losing to the Islanders and Flyers last week, but they won their third straight last night 3-1 over the Sabres. From March 17th to date, no team has picked up more points in the NHL than the Blueshirts’ 32 points.

NYR Postgame Notes

  • The Rangers extended their winning streak to three games; New York has posted a winning streak of three or more games in length for the fourth time this season. The Blueshirts have also won seven of the last nine games (7-2-0 record). In addition, the Rangers have earned at least one point in nine of the last 11 games (8-2-1 record), in 13 of the last 16 games (11-3-2 record), and in 19 of the last 25 games (16-6-3 record).
  • The Rangers have won nine of their last 11 home games (9-2-0 record) and have outscored opponents, 54-25, in the 11 contests over the span. New York has also earned at least one point in 11 of its last 13 home games (10-2-1 record).
  • Alexis Lafrenière tallied his 10th goal of the season in tonight’s game. According to NHL Stats and Information, he is the fifth teenager who has recorded at least 10 goals in a season with the Rangers in franchise history (Mike Allison, Alexei Kovalev, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko). In addition, the Blueshirts have had a different teenager record 10 or more goals in each of the last three seasons (Chytil – 2018-19; Kakko – 2019-20; Lafrenière – 2020-21).

Notes courtesy NYR

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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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