Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Sabres 0 (SO)
February, 1, 2012
By Mike Hume | ESPNNewYork.com
Recap | Box score | Photos
What it means: Henrik Lundqvist showed no ill effects from the All-Star break, notching a shutout in his first game back in action. Meanwhile, Rochester native Ryan Callahan potted the game-winning goal in the shootout to give the New York Rangers two points and extend their lead over the idle Boston Bruins to three at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Anything you can do ... Lundqvist (33 saves) and Ryan Miller (29) matched each other blow-for-blow over the first three periods and the five-minute OT, including some sensational stops late in the third and in the extra session. It's the sort of showing the Sabres have missed from Miller this season, which ought to make it especially painful that they couldn't put the puck in the net. Of course, there was that hulking Swede in the way for the Blueshirts.
... I can do better: The only separation for either goalie came in the shootout, where Lundqvist absolutely stole a goal away from Brad Boyes when he dropped his glove to the ice to halt the shot on the goal line. After Marian Gaborik converted his attempt to start the shootout for the Rangers, a goal by Jason Pominville kept the Sabres alive, but Callahan ultimately ended the shootout in the fifth round to end a sensational duel between the netminders.
A little luck never hurt either: Lundqvist's best save of the night -- prior to the shootout -- may have come right at the end of the OT period, when he stopped a rising shot from Andrej Sekera with his shoulder and then Derek Roy couldn't pot the rebound, shooting it into the side netting as the clock ticked toward zero. It wasn't the only fortunate break for Lundqvist.
About three minutes into the third period, Boyes broke into the Rangers' zone on a 2-on-1 and wristed a missile over Lundqvist's glove-side shoulder. While Henrik missed it, the goal post did its job and deflected the puck away. Boyes missed another good opportunity midway through the third, chipping the puck just wide of what seemed to be a yawning Rangers goal, and again when Lundqvist stoned him on the doorstep during a Sabres power play with a minute to play. It's been that kind of year for Boyes, who has just 12 points in 37 games this season.
The hits just keep on coming: The Rangers may not have scored in the first two periods, but they certainly imposed their physical style of play, outhitting the Sabres 26-8 through the first 40 minutes. The fact that such a performance came away from MSG (where the hits always seem just a tad inflated), was even more impressive.
Um, ouch: Referee Kelly Sutherland caught a deflected shot right in the mug just 5:37 into the game and did not return. Sutherland kept his feet, but seemed a little off-balance as he left the ice. The remainder of the game was completed with just one ref and two linesmen.
Minutes men: Just a night after Dan Girardi played 33:46 in the shootout loss to the Devils (and Ryan McDonagh played 29:11) the defensemen again combined for 57-plus minutes of ice time. It's an impressive feat of endurance for both men, but it also demonstrates why some depth on the blue line could be a prudent pick up before the trade deadline. You don't want your top pair of defensemen running out of gas right before the playoffs start.