Your New York Rangers will be going onto the Christmas break on a high after defeating the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in overtime. With another less than spectacular game from the Blueshirts, the Rangers have some areas to improve over the the festive break, but the upside here is that it is another two points in the standings. New York has continued to build its lead in the Metropolitan Division, and the Rangers have a lot going right for them.
It started by getting a puck in deep and the third line going in on the forecheck. Nick Bonino gets the puck to Jonny Brodzinski at the boards before Brodzinski gets it back to Ryan Lindgren at the point. Lindgren fires the puck on net, and it just beats Ukko-Pekka Luukonen as he was screened on the play by Bonino, and the Rangers had the lead. When scoring first, this Rangers team ranks among the best in the NHL, so it was a good sign of what was to come.
New York's powerplay would then double the lead. Artemi Panarin at the point would feed the puck over to Mika Zibanejad. Panarin would get the puck back from the big Swede, and fire it at the net. As the red hot Breadman often does, he scores on the powerplay to double the Ranger lead and give them a hold on this game. With less than five minutes to go in the first, this looks like it could be a strong performance from the Blueshirts.
Before the end of the second though, the Sabres would get back into it. Rasmus Dahlin would launch a puck over to Casey Mittelstadt who got it in deep. Jordan Greenway would be on puck retreival, but Braden Schneider pinned him to the boards, making the play rather harmless, right? Greenway then fires a missle of a pass while not being able to move to Dahlin who cleanly beats Igor Shesterkin to cut the Ranger lead in half.
Early in the second, the Sabres would tie the game up. As they work it out from behind their own net, J.J. Peterka would take the puck near the benches and carry it up the ice before dishing it over to Dylan Cozens. Cozens would lay it back to Jack Quinn, and he would just rip it from the high slot past Igor Shesterkin to tie the game up at two. It was a poor defensive display on this goal, and the Rangers would now need to score again if they were to take the win in this one.
New York would get it. Ryan Lindgren played a beautiful pass off the boards to Blake Wheeler who was behind his man and creating a two-on-one with Zibanejad. Wheeler gave it back to the trailed on the play who was Chris Kreider, but his effort was stopped by Luukonen. Zibanejad potted the rebound to restore the Ranger lead before the halfway point of the game. It was 3-2 and the Rangers offense looked good.
However, they couldn't build on their lead and the Sabres were opportunistic to tie the game up in the third. This goal can only be described as shambolic from the defense and from Igor, truthfully. Erik Gustafsson dropped it back to Schneider who just needs to get the puck out of the zone. Instead, he hits Greenway with the attempted clearance, which then bounces off the side of the net to Casey Mittelstadt who put the puck around Shesterkin, who did not even look like he was trying on the play. It looked like it happened in slow motion, and it means the Rangers would need to score again.
There would be no more scoring in regulation, so into overtime we go. Adam Fox would send a long stretch pass up the ice to Kreider but his shot was deflected. Zibanejad did well to recover the puck and get it back to Fox. Fox swapped positions with Mika before giving the puck back to New York's top line center. Zibanejad then did well to walk around the entire Sabres defense and even pull the netminder out of position before laying the puck off to Chris Kreider, who just tapped the puck home for the extra point.
This was not a vintage Rangers performance, but given that it was the final game before the Christmas break, you can understand why some of the players may have been a little more focused on just getting home to their families. A win is a win, and a 23-8-1 record on Christmas day will make a lot of Rangers fans very happy during this holiday season. Continuing to build on the win when they come back will be the important part.