Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rangers Pound Sabres For 8 Goals In Wild Friday Night Win

The Rangers strengthened their hold on the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with an eventful 8-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres last night, giving the Rangers four big points in two days after they beat the Panthers 6-1 on Thursday at the Garden. The Rangers, who were led by Brad Richards' first career hat trick, have now scored 14 goals in two nights and will take on the Devils tomorrow afternoon.

The Rangers, now 23-17-4 sit at 50 points for the season while the Jets have 49 after this afternoon's 5-4 shootout win against the Islanders, though the Jets (49 points) and Islanders (53 points) have both played one game more than the Rangers so far this year. The Senators have 57 points and are seventh in the conference.

Last night's game was very bizarre to say the least. The game got off to a slow start with neither team generating much of anything on offense until Carl Hagelin beat Ryan Miller on a wraparound  at 18:42 of the first period. Brad Richards added his first goal of the night off a deflected slap shot less than a minute later at 19:39 and Ryane Clowe got a gift goal 17 seconds later after Ryan Miller misplayed a clearing attempt with just four seconds left in the period, and within a blink of an eye the Rangers had a 3-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The second period opened with more of the same. Anton Stralman scored a goal off a wrist shot from the right circle 1:13 into the second period that chased Ryan Miller from the game, and Richards potted his second of the night 27 seconds later. Rick Nash added another goal at 7:05 and before you knew it the Rangers had a 6-0 lead. All good, right? Sort of. The Sabres answered with a power play goal at 13:50 from Cody Hodgson and scored another quick goal six seconds later after Nathan Gerbe intercepted a terrible Michael Del Zotto pass. Suddenly, it was 6-2 and I think every Ranger fan was instantly reminded of the Montreal Meltdown when they blew a 5-0 lead a few years back. But fear not, because Ryan Callahan answered the call 32 seconds later with a goal on a breakaway, and that was pretty much that. The Sabres added another goal to make it 7-3 going into the second intermission, but that was pretty much that. Richards got his hat trick goal 12:32 into the third period and the Sabres got one more goal in garbage time to give you a final score of 8-4. Just like how you drew it up, right?


It certainly wasn't pretty, and was truly scary how many defensive breakdowns the Rangers had after jumping out to a 6-0 lead. Plus, Henrik Lundqvist was far from his sharpest. But two points is two points and the Rangers will gladly take it. The Rangers were benefited by a few cheap goals and weird plays that they normally never get, but anytime you score eight goals in a game it's not without some crazy luck and weird bounces. It was one of those games that was probably a coach's nightmare and I wouldn't be surprised if John Tortorella totally throws all footage of last night's game out the window since it really wasn't pretty.

Anyway, Brad Richards finally showed up in a big way. As mentioned, his hat trick was the first of his career and last night's breakout game came after he registered a goal and an assist in the third period against the Panthers the night before. If the Rangers can get Brad Richards going now, it would obviously be a gigantic boost for the team's offense going forward. Richie has struggled this year but he can definitely right the ship if he has a strong finish to the regular season and an even stronger performance in the postseason (assuming the Rangers make it).

Some other notes:

- With last night's win in regulation, the Rangers officially eliminated the Flyers and Sabres from the playoffs.

- Brad Richards now has five points (four goals, one assist) in his last two games after having one point (an assist) in the six games prior.

- Rick Nash also has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last two games and 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 10 games in April.

- Derick Brassard was held without a point for the first time since April 8, but finished the game with a plus-2 rating.

- Henrik Lundqvist registered an assist on Carl Hagelin's goal, giving him his first point of the season.

- Ryane Clowe has three points (one goal, two assists) in his last two games, giving him two goals and five assists for seven points in 9 games as a Ranger, along with 14 penalty minutes.

- John Moore registered an assist in 12:51 TOI (with 16 seconds of power play time) and now has one goal and three assists for four points in 9 games as a Ranger.

- Ryan Callahan scored his first goal since April 6 against the Hurricanes.