With 7:48 remaining in the game Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, Sabres defensemen Casey Nelson and Mark Pysyk were sent to the box for separate infractions. Center David Legwand lined up for the faceoff with Rasmus Ristolainen and Josh Gorges and the trio ended up on the ice for about 1:30 of the Rangers power play.
But the Sabres held strong and were able to hold the Rangers off en route to the win – their first over New York in 10 matchups.
"It was an outstanding kill. All those guys on the ice – Legwand and Josh Gorges made two brilliant plays defensively there," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It was awesome to see the guys kill that off and get the win."
Chad Johnson, playing in his 100th career game, was strong in net, making 33 saves to earn his 21st win of the season. The Rangers ended up going 0-for-3 on the power play and Johnson made five saves while shorthanded on the night.
"You just battle. You try to make simple plays," he said. "We have experienced guys there on the kill and we've been good lately on the penalty kill. We take that with a lot of pride to try and be good there."
Buffalo had given up a 3-0 lead on Tuesday in a 5-4 loss at Pittsburgh, but the Sabres seemed more in control of the situation on Friday when the Rangers, a team denied of clinching a playoff berth, began to come back in the third.
"We were well prepared. We knew what to do," Ryan O'Reilly, who scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season, said. "In games past, we tended to panic a bit more and deviate, but there were still some times where we possessed the puck well and made it tough on them. It wasn't our best period, but there were some improvements for sure."
After the game, Bylsma was able to rattle off numerous opportunities the Rangers had to tie the game, but liked the way his group was able to make plays and hang onto the lead.
"They had multiple chances to get dry even. They had the power play, the 5-on-3, obviously, but I thought our guys played poised and controlled and closed this one out," he said.
O'Reilly, at 25 years old, joins Jack Eichel (23 goals at age 19), Sam Reinhart (22 at 20) and Evander Kane (20 at 24) in the Sabres 20-Goal Club. It's the first time Buffalo has had four 20-goal scorers in their age 25 seasons or younger since 1987-88 when Dave Andreychuk, Pil Housley, Christian Ruuttu and Ray Sheppard each scored at least 20.
O'Reilly has points in four-straight games (3+3) and nine points (3+6) in nine games since returning from injury.
The Sabres took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to O'Reilly's pair of goals, despite having been outshot 9-7 in the first period. The first goal came as the result of an offensive zone dump-in. Zach Bogosian ended up collecting the puck on the right wing and firing a shot on net. The rebound found its way into the slot, where O'Reilly won the battle to the puck and roofed a shot over Henrik Lundqvist with 9:53 remaining in the period.
O'Reilly can thank Eichel's vision and patience for his 20th goal of the season. On a 2-on-1 deep in the Rangers zone with 7:01 left, Eichel, cutting in on goal, sent a backhand pass from the left wing cross-ice, avoiding Derek Stepan, who was sprawled on the ice trying to defend against the play, and Lundqvist, who looked like he was expecting Eichel to shoot from in tight.
The pass made it to O'Reilly on the right side and he buried the one-timer into a virtually empty net.
"It was a special play by him. I don't know how he got it across," O'Reilly said. "It was unbelievable the way he can control the puck in so many different areas. On his body, to even get it over like that, it's a very unique skill that most guys don't have."
AN EVENTFUL SECOND PERIOD
Buffalo went up 3-0 just 46 seconds into the second when Zemgus Girgensons knocked in his own rebound from 17 feet out. That goal signaled the end of Lundqvist's night. He surrendered three goals on nine shots and was replaced in net by Antti Raanta.
The Rangers responded on the scoresheet a little over two minutes later when Kevin Hayes accepted a behind-the-net pass from Eric Staal and beat Johnson to make it 3-1.
Moulson put home his seventh of the season with 6:51 remaining in the second to give Buffalo its three-goal advantage back. Cal O'Reilly stripped Keith Yandle of the puck behind the Rangers net and fed it to Moulson in front. The veteran wing's backhand found the back of the net past Raanta.
J.T. Miller made it 4-2 when he scored with just 34.7 seconds left in the second. A shot from the left point by Ryan McDonagh went wide and ricocheted off the end boards, right out to Miller, who was camped out unguarded to Johnson's right. Johnson had to spin around to track the shot, but was unable to square up to Miller as he shot it into a gaping net.
The Rangers kept battling back, as Stepan tipped the puck in over Johnson 4:52 into the third period to put the Rangers within one. New York kept the pressure on through the 5-on-3 power play and with an extra skater after pulling Raanta in the final minutes of the game.
ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT-REEL SAVE FOR JOHNSON
At the 9:50 mark of the second period, Johnson made this stop on Rick Nash.
Johnson has made a few jaw-dropping saves already this season and this latest stop was no exception.
"I thought he was going to one-time it actually, which is why I was flopping all over the place," Johnson said. "I just tried to keep my eyes on the puck and just react to it. I'll take the saves."
Buffalo will wrap up its road trip Tuesday night in New Jersey. Coverage of Game No. 80 begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell TV. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
And be sure to check out our final Beyond Blue & Gold episode of the season during the first intermission. Here's a sneak peek: