The Buffalo Sabres held on in a scoreless game against the top team in the Eastern Conference for a large chunk of the game on Saturday, but eventually, the New York Rangers found a way to put one in.
Through traffic, Rangers defenseman Keith Yandle rifled a shot past Sabres goaltender Anders Lindback 7:31 into the third period to break a scoreless tie. Martin St. Louis added an empty-net goal with 32.7 seconds remaining to give the Rangers a 2-0 victory at First Niagara Center.
Playing without defenseman Zach Bogosian, who is averaging a hefty 26:44 of ice time in his 12 games with the Sabres, due to a lower-body injury, the Sabres defense did all they could – for as long as they could – to contain the Rangers’ offensive attack. Buffalo even made a few adjustments to try and slow New York down.
“We know last time playing them, they really took advantage with their intelligence and their speed,” coach Ted Nolan said. “We tried to clog up the neutral zone a little bit better so they wouldn’t have so much free-wheeling room to go. It seemed to work. They were right there right til the end.”
Regarding Bogosian, Nolan said that he tweaked something Saturday morning and the coaching staff decided to sit him one game so he could heal completely instead of running the risk of losing him for a longer period of time if he had played. Bogosian could very well be ready for the team's next game on Monday.
However, offense isn’t a huge part of Bogosian’s game and what the Sabres really needed against the Rangers was to put the puck in the back of the net.
“For the most part, we did the things we wanted to do,” captain Brian Gionta said. “But you’ve got to score some goals to win the game. Unfortunately we just didn’t get enough there.”
Gionta was also pleased with the effort and for a majority of the game, thought they handled the Rangers speed pretty well.
However, he’d like to see more out of his club when it comes to generating offense and he said it starts in their own zone with cleaner breakouts.
“We’ve got to make improvements on supporting each other,” he said. “And I’d like to see a little more coming in through the neutral zone offensively, being able to support each other and get something going there.”
STRONG IN NET
Lindback finished with 31 saves in what was his 100th career NHL game. However, he’s still looking for his first win as a Sabre.
“I want to win. I feel OK; I feel good out there,” he said. “Obviously the more I play the more comfortable the game becomes, but I’ve got to find a way to win.”
Nolan has given a lot of credit to goaltending coach Arturs Irbe this season and Lindback is the latest to step in, work hard and reap the benefits of that work.
“[Irbe is] doing a tremendous job with all the goaltenders so far this year. Lindback is no different. You see the progression of him getting better and better and better and his confidence really coming,” Nolan said. “Between Lindback’s work ethic and Arturs’ teaching, I think he’s doing a tremendous job.”
Lindback has had a steady stretch of games so far, having appeared in five-straight games and starting in four of them. He’s feeling better with every game and was pretty pleased with the team’s defensive efforts against the Rangers.
“It’s been a couple in a row here we’ve lost. It’s frustrating but we’ve just got to keep plugging,” he said. “This is absolutely one of the best teams in the League and I thought we did well.”
Strong goaltending has been a theme for the Sabres this season no matter who seems to be between the pipes and Lindback’s teammates have taken notice of his recent play as well.
One of his best saves of the night came midway through the second period when he cut across the crease to stop St. Louis, deflecting the puck off his left pad, then off the post and out.
“Lindy played a great game in net. He made some big saves,” Sabres forward Tyler Ennis said. “The penalty kill was good. I thought we played solid tonight. If our power play could’ve gotten one, it would be a different story. But a solid effort tonight.”
SPECIAL TEAMS SUMMARY
The Sabres power play went 0-for-3 on the night and Ennis put a lot of the burden for their lack of production upon himself.
“We were saying what’s been killing us lately was penalties, but tonight, what got us I think, was the power play,” he said. “I wasn’t good enough on it today and I think that’s part of the difference.”
On the flip side, Buffalo’s penalty kill was strong as the Rangers went 0-for-3 on the man advantage and limited to New York to four shots.
Buffalo will regroup and open the first half of a back-to-back slate of games on Monday at home against the Washington Capitals. They’ll then leave after the game and head to Boston for a match Tuesday night against the Bruins.