By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
After two weeks of home-cooking, the Rangers are heading back out on the road. Unfortunately they will do so with a sour taste in their collective stomach after closing out a season-high seven-game homestand with a 4-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres Friday night at The Garden. The loss dropepd the Rangers' record to 4-3-0 on the homestand, and left them just one point up on the surging Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference.
With the win, ninth-place Buffalo kept their playoff hopes alive as they improved to 5-0-2 in their last seven games. It was their first win four tries against the Rangers this season.
Ryan Miller starred in goal for the Sabres, making 26 saves. He was outstanding in the third period as the Rangers tried desperately to erase a 2-1 deficit. Marian Gaborik had a slew of in-tight chances, but could not dent Miller. On one occasion it was defenseman Christian Ehrhoff---laying on his side along the goal line---who snuffed out a great Gaborik opportunity.
All of the proved huge for Buffalo when Tyler Ennis scored off a 2-on-1 rush against Henrik Lundqvist with six minutes left to play in regulation to hand the Sabres a two-goal lead. Drew Stafford put the game away at 16:09 scoring his second goal of the game---and the third off an odd-man rush for Buffalo on the night.
In an unfortunate turn of events, the Rangers had an apparent goal scored by Brandon Dubinsky during a scramble by Miller's cage early in the third period waved off by the referees, who explained the whistle had been blown prior to the puck crossing the goal line.
The Sabres were able to carry a 2-1 lead into the third period after a Rangers miscue led directly to the go-ahead goal in the second period. John Mitchell's giveaway while trying to make a play in the offensive zone led directly to a 3-on-1 rush back the other way for Buffalo, one that ended with Stafford's right-wing shot sailing past Lundqvist at the 13:43 mark of the middle stanza.
It was the second goal of the period for Buffalo in which it was difficult to fault Lundqvist at all. The Sabres opened the scoring at 3:14 when rookie Travis Turnbull centered the puck from behind the goal line only to see it deflect off a backchecking Mitchell and into the Rangers net---Turnbull's first goal in the National Hockey League.
Earlier Lundqvist made a simply fantastic pad save in the first period robbing Stafford's 2-on-1 slam dunk at the far post, and then late in the second period he dove to his left to rob a wide open Cody Hodgson.
The Rangers briefly pulled even when Brian Boyle went to the net and converted Artem Anisimov's centering pass for his seventh goal of the season at 9:32 of the second period. While Anisimov recorded the primary assist on Boyle's goal, rookie Tim Erixon was credited with the secondary helper---the first point of his NHL career.
There was significant bad news for the Rangers in the first period when Mats Zuccarello suffered a fractured wrist while blocking a shot. The team reported that he will be sidelined indefinitely.