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Miller Lifts Rangers to Overtime Win in Winter Classic

Blueshirts 4-0 in Outdoor Games

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

Wins have become a constant for the Rangers just as much as frigid temperatures, the sun and shadows whenever they play outdoors.

J.T. Miller made sure that would continue when he scored 2:43 into overtime to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at the 10th annual NHL Winter Classic in Queens to keep the Blueshirts perfect at 4-0 in outdoor events.

"Obviously that's a pretty special feeling," Miller said. "That situation is pretty surreal. I feel super fortunate. It was an awesome game for our team. I think we had a good start tonight and to get it done in front of a lot of New Yorkers is pretty special."

Jacob Josefson was called for tripping midway through overtime to send the Rangers to the power play. Kevin Shattenkirk fired a shot on goal through traffic and Miller was able to bury the rebound on the backhand.

There's no bigger stage during the regular season than the Winter Classic. Where does the goal rank for Miller?

"That's up there," Miller said with a laugh. "That might be one of the biggest ones and probably is. You don't really think about scoring that big of a goal. You think about it, but you understand how tough it is and obviously you've got to be in the right spot at the right time and I think fortunately I was in that position tonight."

New York jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first period, beginning with a goal by Paul Carey 4:09 into the contests. Jesper Fast, who was a late addition to the Rangers' lineup after missing two games with a quadriceps strain, fed Carey with a pass from behind the net for his fifth goal of the year.

The Rangers doubled their lead to two 4:11 later when Michael Grabner finished a highlight-reel pass by Kevin Hayes as the center was nearly behind the goal line. Hayes' pass found Grabner on the side of the net for the easy tap in that gave him 18 goals on the year, and the Blueshirts a 2-0 advantage.

Buffalo chipped away starting just 56 seconds into the second period on Sam Reinhart's sixth of the year, and evened the game 27 seconds into the third on Rasmus Ristolainen's second of the season.

Like his team, Lundqvist remained perfect in the exposed elements of an outdoor game and padded his lead as the NHL's winningest outdoor goaltender to four victories.

But it's too early for him to reflect on what's gone right over the four games dating back to the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia. That day will come, but his focus was solely on today's win in Flushing.

"It was more about this game, not so much about the past," Lundqvist said after his 31 saves. "We've had different types of teams throughout the years. Today was all about today."

The game counts in the standings, but players throughout the lead up spoke about the importance of enjoying themselves throughout the experience that included a family skate on Sunday. 

And while there was certainly talk of downplaying the situation to make it "just another game," several Blueshirts, including Shattenkirk, admitted getting wrapped up in the moment, especially early.

"Warmups, the national anthem, the fly over and the bald eagle, that stuff is just something that you can't beat," Shattenkirk admitted. "Those little moments, the TV timeouts, I know I was smiling most of the game just really enjoying it and looking around when I could and soaking it all up."

Despite a temperature at puck drop that hovered around 20 degrees, Lundqvist said he was wasn't bothered by the frigid conditions. Maybe it would have had his team not left their neighboring borough without two points.

"It's just a fun experience to be part of and something that you don't take for granted," he said. "We discussed it in the room; you're not going to enjoy this and look back on it as a great memory unless you win this game."

"I enjoyed every minute."

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