NEW YORK – Nine losses and nearly three years later, the Buffalo Sabres finally got another win against the New York Rangers.
Ryan O’Reilly scored twice in the first period to give the Sabres a lead they would never relinquish Saturday night and Buffalo held on through a frantic third period for a 4-3 win over the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. The Sabres had not beaten the Rangers since a 3-1 win in Buffalo on April 19, 2013, and had not won in the Garden since a 4-1 victory on March 23, 2012.
Saturday’s game was Buffalo’s second straight win and improved the Sabres to 6-2-2 over their last 10 games. At 33-35-11 with three games left, a .500 season remains a possibility for the Sabres. They need five of the six points in their final three contests to finish with 82 points in 82 games.
Meanwhile, the loss prevented the Rangers from clinching a playoff berth – and ended their 13-game winning streak in the game immediately following a regulation loss. The Rangers fell, 4-3, Thursday in Carolina and have dropped two straight in regulation for the first time since a three-game skid Dec. 17-20.
Spirit of 2-0: O’Reilly scored twice in a span of 2 minutes, 52 seconds in the first period to get to 20 goals for the first time since he posted a career-high 28 for Colorado in 2013-14. The first came off a Zach Bogosian rebound while the second came off a nifty backhand pass from Jack Eichel.
Bright lights, big city: Zemgus Girgensons scored his seventh goal of the season, driving a Johan Larsson rebound past Henrik Lundquist at 46 seconds of the second period to put the Sabres up, 3-0. It was Girgensons’ seventh goal of the year. All have come on the road – and three of them have come in Madison Square Garden.
Spirit of 3-0: This was the third straight game the Sabres have taken a 3-0 lead. They did in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout loss in Pittsburgh and again in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Toronto in First Niagara Center.
King loses his crown: The Girgensons goal sent Lundqvist to the bench, with coach Alain Vigneault giving him a mercy pulling in favor of backup Antti Raanta.
Moulson getting golden again: After Kevin Hayes drove home an Eric Staal feed at 2:58 of the second, the Sabres re-established their three-goal lead as Matt Moulson scored his seventh of the season at 13:09 of the second following a steal in the Rangers’ zone by Cal O’Reilly. It was Moulson’s second goal in three games – after scoring just once in his previous 63 contests.
Tight finish: The Rangers got within a goal on Derek Stepan’s tip of a Chris Kreider pass at 4:52 of the third period. Defenseman Keith Yandle made the play, bulling Girgensons off the puck in the Buffalo end to set it up for Kreider.
Double penalty: The Sabres survived a rarely called double penalty with 7:48 left as Mark Pysyk went off for interference and Casey Nelson for hooking. The Rangers had a few good chances but Johnson held the fort as both penalty killing units were stellar. David Legwand, Josh Gorges and Rasmus Ristolainen combined to kill the first 1:20 of the 5-on-3, with Ryan O’Reilly, Jake McCabe and Bogosian taking care of the rest.
Century mark: Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson played in his 100th career game and started his eighth straight. The win was Johnson’s 21st of the season.
Up Next: The Sabres will be off Sunday but will be sticking around the New York City area. They will practice Monday in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and meet the New Jersey Devils there Tuesday night.