QUEENS-- The New York Rangers own the outdoors.
The Broadway Blueshirts rang in 2018 in style with a 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres on New Year's Day in the NHL's 10th annual Winter Classic at Citi Field, home of Major League Baseball's New York Mets.
JT Miller provided the game-winner 2:43 into overtime when he cleaned up a rebound off a shot from Kevin Shattenkirk on the power play, improving the Rangers' all-time record in outdoor games to 4-0-0.
"It's kind of hard to describe," Miller said about scoring the winner. "You think about stuff like that, but you don't."
The Rangers defeated the Philadephia Flyers in the 2012 Winter Classic and disposed of the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders during the 2014 Stadium Series.
In frigid temperatures that only dropped from the 20.5-degree mark at puck drop, New York had to fend off their rivals from the western portion of the state, squandering a 2-0 lead.
"No doubt it's different. But at the same time, I think everybody had a good time," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. "There were a lot of battles. There were some real good plays on both sides, a lot of competition. And an overtime game. So typical NHL, tight and right until the end.
Despite battling hard in what could very well be their biggest game of the 2017-18 season, the struggling Sabres have now lost six of their previous eight games.
Paul Carey put the Rangers out in front just 4:09 into the game after taking a pass from Jesper Fast behind the net and snapping a wrist shot past Robin Lehner.
A little over four minutes later, the Rangers made it two when Michael Grabner pounced on a loose puck that squeaked behind Lehner on his left post.
The goal was created by Kevin Hayes, who rushed down the left wing and skillfully wheeled a spinning backhand toward the Sabres goal.
Buffalo found their legs toward the end of the first period, drawing a trio of Rangers penalties, though they were unable to convert in the opening stanza.
Early in the second period though, with Nick Holden in the box for a hooking penalty, the Sabres pulled one back via Sam Reinhart just 56 seconds in for his first goal in 17 games.
It was a gritty goal after a shot in front hit off the forward, who was attempting to screen Lundqvist. After a scramble, the puck fell to Reinhart, who slotted it home.
Just like they did in the second, Buffalo came out quick in the third and knotted things up through a Rasmus Ristolainen wrist shot from the point that somehow made its way through Lundqvist just 27 seconds into the period.
While chances came for both sides, both Lehner and Lundqvist, who put plenty of pressure on himself, were sterling in the game's final 19 minutes, ensuring the Winter Classic went to overtime.
"We discussed it in the room," Lundqvist began. "You're not going to enjoy this and look back at it as a great memory unless you win this game."
Luckily for him and his teammates, Jacob Josefson provided the Rangers with a golden opportunity with a trip 2:15 into the extra period, giving New York an extra man that would help provide the winner.