Rangers dominate Sabres as Lundqvist earns shutout
Simply, it was a 60-minute domination of an inferior opponent.
Every step of the way, the Rangers imposed their will on the Sabres throughout the 2-0 win Thursday night at the Garden.
“We came out extremely hard, I thought, and spent a good portion of the first two periods in their end,” head coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Rangers have won consecutive games for the first time this season. They finished October, a month which began with a nine-game road trip, with a 5-7 record.
“I think our game has been getting better, getting better at both ends of the rink,” Vigneault said. “Defensively and offensively, we’re doing a lot of the things you have to do to put some good performances together and that’s what we did tonight.”
For all intents and purposes, Derick Brassard’s power-play goal 8:23 into the first period decided the game. The Rangers controlled the puck throughout the course of the man advantage before Michael Del Zotto slid a pass to Brassard at the half wall. Brassard took several strides before ripping a slap shot from the top of the right circle over Ryan Miller’s right shoulder for his second of the season.
“He’s been playing well,” Vigneault said. “He’s been committed to giving his best every game. Some games are better than others, like all players, but I like where his game is at right now.”
The game-opening score was the Rangers’ third on the power play dating back to Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Islanders. The Rangers were 1-for-3 on the power play
Brassard’s goal was part of a 14-0 shot barrage in a span of 6:07 for the Rangers, who finished with a season-high 46 shots on goal.
“Our first two periods we had 19 shots each period,” Dan Girardi said. “Sometimes that’s a game total. I think we did a really good job of throwing everything on net.”
That the margin of victory wasn’t more lopsided was due to Miller, who made 44 mostly acrobatic saves.
“Their goaltender kept them in [the game],” Vigneault said.
But the Rangers were able to take advantage of Miller’s athleticism on their second goal, as Chris Kreider banked in a shot off a diving Miller 11:21 into the second period. Kreider began the sequence by forcing Tyler Myers into a turnover in the neutral zone and finished it by redirecting Mats Zuccarello’s cross-crease feed into the Eighth Avenue goal.
“The puck bounced wide and that’s a play I tried a lot. I don’t know if it’s ever worked for me,” Kreider said. “I threw it back out in front because you don’t have any other options; you see the goalie is out in front. Best case, it goes in, but hopefully it sits there and one of your teammates can bang it home. I think it worked out but it was a whole lot of luck. It was a great job of execution by the other guys on the ice.”
From there on out, Henrik Lundqvist made the two-goal lead hold up.
Lundqvist wasn’t tested much in recording his 47th regular season shutout, as he made 27 saves. Only Ed Giacomin has more regular season shutouts (49) as a Ranger than does Lundqvist.
“We deserve this one for sure,” Lundqvist said. “We did so many good things and had a lot of chances.”
Buffalo’s best chances came during flurries late in the second and third periods, the most dangerous of which was Drew Stafford’s point-blank shot with 21 seconds left in the middle stanza.
Both teams entered the game down regulars. Following the early skate, Vigneault announced Dominic Moore would miss the next 7-10 days with a strained oblique, which the center suffered Tuesday night. Moore was replaced in the lineup last night by Brandon Mashinter.
About an hour before the game, the NHL announced Buffalo enforcer John Scott had been suspended 10 games for elbowing Boston left wing Loui Eriksson in the Sabres’ 5-2 loss to the Bruins on Oct. 23. Scott had sat out Buffalo’s last three games.
Scott was the second Sabre to be suspended by the league this season. The NHL announced Patrick Kaleta was suspended for 10 games on Oct. 15, and commissioner Gary Bettman upheld the suspension on Oct. 24.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.