BUFFALO - The season is so young, the Rangers are cautioning one another not to let frustration build so early. If games go the way they did on Saturday night in Buffalo, they feel certain that the results will follow.
In a game in which the Rangers peppered the Buffalo net almost from start to finish, the Sabres got a pair of power-play goals from Conor Sheary, while Carter Hutton improved to 4-0 in his career against the Rangers by stopping 42 of 44 shots as the Blueshirts fell, 3-1, at KeyBank Center.
Brett Howden scored his first NHL goal to draw the Rangers close toward the end of a game in which they outshot the Sabres 44-29. Buffalo captain Jack Eichel closed out the scoring with an extra Rangers skater on for Henrik Lundqvist, who made 26 saves for the Rangers in a second hard-luck loss to start 2018-19.
Video: NYR@BUF: Lundqvist lays out to turn aside Rodrigues
The defeat snapped the Rangers' four-game winning streak against the Sabres and sent the Blueshirts to 0-2 on the young season, with the back end of the weekend road trip coming Sunday night in Carolina.
"There's a difference between playing well and playing winning hockey," head coach David Quinn said. "We did a lot of good things, better than we did the other night. At the end of the day, this is a game of taking advantage of your opportunities, and they took advantage of two of theirs and we only took advantage of one of ours."
Seventeen of the Rangers' 18 skaters put pucks on Hutton in the game; 14 players had multiple shots on goal, led my Mika Zibanejad's eight in 23:04 of ice time. And it started early: The visitors had 12 of the game's first 15 shots on net and were pressing for the opening goal until, with the teams skating 4-on-4, a neutral-zone penalty on Chris Kreider changed the complexion of the game.
Kreider was called for holding Jeff Skinner near the Buffalo blue line on a play in which it looked like Skinner was the one who had grabbed Kreider and dragged him to the ice.
"Looked like? It definitely (should have gone) the other way," Quinn said, adding with a shrug: "What are you going to do? Got to kill a penalty."
Instead, Buffalo opened the scoring on the ensuing power play, when the Rangers were caught in an odd-man rush - a bugaboo from their season opener - and Sheary finished the 2-on-1 himself with a wrist shot from the left hashmarks, the Sabres' first goal of the season and Sheary's first as a Sabre.
Sheary picked up his second goal on a power play 1:42 into the second period, at the end of a pretty passing play from Eichel and Sam Reinhart.
Howden, meanwhile, nearly had his first NHL goal in the second period, when a Buffalo turnover sprung the Rangers on a 3-on-0 rush that ended with Hutton flashing his catching glove to rob the Ranger rookie.
Video: NYR@BUF: Howden jams home rebound for first NHL goal
But Howden finally provided the breakthrough on Hutton with 4:39 to play, on the Rangers' 40th shot of the game. After Hutton had made an initial save on Adam McQuaid's point shot through Howden's screen, Howden dug for the loose puck in Hutton's pads and punched it over the line.
"It's crazy. It's obviously a really special moment," said Howden, whose parents had come from the Winnipeg area to attend the opener at the Garden and also traveled to Buffalo for this one. "I thought we played a great game, too. But it's really nice to get that one. Now we just move on and look forward to (Sunday)."
The Rangers got a scare early in the second period when Filip Chytil left the game after taking a high hit from Patrik Berglund beside the Sabres net, a hit that Quinn took issue with. But the 19-year-old returned after about 10 minutes and played 17:18 on the night.
Now it's on to Raleigh, where "it's not going to get any easier," as Marc Staal said. But the Rangers feel that if they can turn in efforts like this one in Buffalo, they will soon be rewarded in the win column.
"The key here is not to think we have to do more," said Lundqvist. "We're playing hard, we're playing fast, we're getting the chances. And if we keep doing that, the winning is going to come."
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