A slow start and two short-handed goals against highlighted yet another lackluster performance as the Buffalo Sabres once again sent fans at the First Niagara Center home disappointed, falling to the New York Rangers, 4-1, on Saturday.
An early penalty by Robyn Regehr set the tone for the entire game and allowed the Rangers to gain a quick edge in shots who proceeded to dominate the first period, out-shooting the Sabres 15-9.
Thomas Vanek ruined a golden opportunity for the Sabres in that first period as just when it began to appear as though the team had found their legs, Vanek promptly negated a crucial power play with an unnecessary interference penalty.
More untimely penalties and missed opportunities would serve as the common theme throughout the remainder of the Sabres' night.
Halfway through the second period with the Sabres on their second power play of the night, Carl Hagelin opened the games scoring with short handed to open the scoring.
The Sabres answered just over a minute later when Thomas Vanek made up for his earlier miscue and took a pass from Jason Pominville into the high slot, blowing the puck by Martin Biron for what would be the Buffalo's only goal of the game.
The Sabres managed to produce a few more chances throughout the period, but ultimately failed to capitalize and with just over a minute left to play before intermission, Ryan Callahan took advantage of a bad bounce and shoved the puck by Jhonas Enroth for the Rangers' second short-handed goal and possibly the worst goal allowed by Enroth in his Sabres career.
New York would add another goal early in the third period from Hagelin and sniper Marian Gaborik gave the team a 4-1 lead with his 14th goal on the season with 3:30 remaining to give the Rangers their 16th win on the season, good fifth in the Eastern Conference while putting them four points ahead of the seventh-place Sabres. The win was also the 2,500th for the Rangers in franchise history.
Enroth was off of his game for the majority of the night, allowing four goals on 33 shots while his counterpart, Biron, continued his solid play against his former team, making 32 saves on an identical 33 shots.
The loss drops the Sabres to 7-9-2 at home on the season, while their road record remains at a healthy 8-3.
Christian Ehrhoff again led the team in ice time with 23:06 while Regehr had a team-high four hits and four blocked shots.
The Sabres will make an attempt to gain a rare home win in their next game on Tuesday as they face off against the division-rival Ottawa Senators at the First Niagara Center. Faceoff is 7:30.
- For me, it's hard to single out any particular Sabre for their impressive play in this game, so instead I think I'll kick things off my talking about how impressive a few of the Rangers looked. For starters, I'm one of the biggest Ryan Callahan fans you'll ever meet, and tonight he showed exactly why. For as terrible as Enroth looked on the Rangers' second short-handed goal, Callahan served as reason No. 1 of why working hard and finishing plays often rewards in the form of lucky goals.
- Also playing extremely well tonight was Dan Girardi. Girardi is a player that often goes unnoticed for his contributions to the Rangers, but he is arguably their most important player of defense. While logging a game-high 29:57 in ice time, Girardi posted three hits and three blocked shots. He is sixth in the league in blocked shots, and consistently does the little things each game that allows for the Rangers to win. Girardi and Callahan have both long been on my "Guys I'd Kill to Wear Blue and Gold" list. Each are prime examples of working hard and never quitting, showing up night after night after night. They never take a game off. I don't know about you, but it's guys like that the Sabres are lacking and is a huge reason for their struggles thus far this season.
- Alright, over to the Sabres now. I suppose I did like the play of Luke Adam for most of the night. He didn't post the sexy stats, but he did help create a few of those Sabres scoring chances I talked about earlier. It's encouraging that we continue to see him play well away from the top line that he succeeded on earlier this season. It telles me he truly does have talent, and we have a lot to look forward to from this kid in the future.
- While it may appear that seven shots would mean Ennis finally had his break-out game, I was less than impressed. Roy, Ennis and Stafford combined for 14 of the Sabres 33 shots, but more importantly failed to tally a single point between the three of them. Ennis was also a minus-2, where as Roy was minus-1 and Stafford was even. The opportunities were there, but I can't count on my fingers the amount of times the puck left the zone following a great rush by the line that ended with Ennis or Stafford fanning on the shots or gunning it wide. One of the biggest issues this team has had this season, especially at home, is secondary scoring. It will be essential that guys like Ennis and Stafford begin putting the puck into the net, because without it, this team will never truly shake its slump.
- Anyone notice Sekera on the ice tonight? That's a good thing, because that means he didn't do anything stupid. I may be in the minority here, but I really enjoyed the way Sekera played tonight. Finally. After leading the team in ice time during the first period, Sekera had three blocked shots and seemed to be one of the Sabres better defensemen tonight.
- Speaking of defense, I for one can't wait until the Sabres get healthy that way Gragnani can ride the pine for a while. After air-mailing a pass to Giroux who would score the eventual game-winner on Wednesday, the first thing he does in this game is toss another bone-headed pass that nearly turned into an early scoring opportunity for the Rangers. I'm growing tired of seeing if he'll play like the Grags we knew in the playoffs last season.
- How can I resist the opportunity to talk about the man, the legend, that is Martin Biron. To me, it seems this guy never fails to post great numbers whenever he has the opportunity to play against the Sabres. Now, maybe it was a product of the Sabres missing great scoring chances than Biron standing on his head, but Marty did make a few great saves throughout the contest. While waiting for Lindy in the press room, we noticed Biron chatting with old friend Mike Peca who was in attendance at the game. I couldn't help but think about how much I miss two of my all-time favorite Sabres.
- In the opposite net was Jhonas Enroth and boy, don't you bet those Sabres fans who called for Millers head are thanking the hockey gods Darcy didn't pull the trigger on a Miller trade? It wasn't just tonight. Enroth has looked pretty terrible to me his past four or five games. I don't know whether it's fatigue or the pressure building up on the guy, but there were two goals that Enroth absolutely should have made a save on tonight. Following the second short-handed goal, Mike Harrington made a great point when he noted that, had Miller been in net, he would've been booed off the ice after allowing that goal. Quit it with your Enroth love affair, Buffalo. The kid is good, but he has a lot to learn. Tonight is proof that this team needs to sink or swim with Miller in net the rest of the way. God forbid he suffers an injury again.
- As a general comment, the Sabres seriously need to figure out this whole home game thing. The team has now allowed five short-handed goals on home ice this season. Five. I just don't get it. I'm done trying to figure it out.
Risers & Fallers:
UP: Luke Adam, Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera
DOWN: Marc-Andre Gragnani, Jhonas Enroth, Derek Roy
Big Save: Uhh... not sure there was one.
Big Hit: Regehr's hit on Brad Boyle at the 19:54 mark of the first period. No question.
My Three Stars:
1st Star: Thomas Vanek
2nd Star: Andrej Sekera
3rd Star: Jason Pominville
Injuries: None to speak of, finally! Gaustad will be on the shelf for a while after being placed on IR earlier in the day, but I'd expect Kaleta to be on the verge of returning soon.
You can follow Brandon on Twitter for even more insightful Sabres coverage @THWGoldSchlager.
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