Two very unexpected heroes took center stage on Tuesday night in Buffalo’s 3-1 win over the New York Rangers. Marcus Foligno scored twice ending a 20 game scoring drought, while Jhonas Enroth made 32 saves giving him his first win since November 26th, 2011.
In the opening ten minutes, the Rangers looked like they were en rout to take care of business. Unfortunately for New York, Jhonas Enroth decided to drink water instead of coffee before the game. Enroth came up big stoping all 10 NYR shots. The Sabres made some noise here and there in the opening period, but Buffalo’s best chance came at 12:01 when Thomas Vanek had two chances at an open net.
Jason Pominville had the puck at the side of the net, and chipped it in front for Vanek. Vanek took his shot as soon as possible, but Lundqvist came across and absolutely robbed Vanek blind. Vanek’s shot created a rebound, but he wasn’t able to get his second chance shot through.
The first period would end in a 0-0 tie. Buffalo’s record when heading into the first intermission was 6-6-3, and for New York, 4-5-1. Another bizarre stat, Buffalo has ended a period tied 15 times this season, ten of those 15 have come in the first period.
In the second , Buffalo would go on the power play 2:30 into the period when Darroll Powe would be whistled for Tripping.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, they’re last in the league when on the power play, and were tied with the St. Louis Blues for most short-handed-goals against with four. I mentioned that stat for a reason.
As soon as Powe stepped into the box, the Sabres struggled mightily on the man advantage. They couldn’t figure out how to get the puck into the Ranger zone, and if they had possession in the offensive zone, they were giving it up instantly. You could tell the Rangers were ready to pounce as they killed off the penalty. With just 20 second left in Powe’s penalty, Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan would be the two Rangers to strike.
Kevin Porter was being pressured heavily by Michael Del Zotto behind the net, and Porter elected to try and clear the puck up to the point, but Stepan read Porter the entire way. Stepan intercepted Porters passing attempt, and headed into the neutral zone. Stepan gained the red line, waited for Callahan to catch up, and fed him with a lead pass as he started to streak towards Buffalo’s zone. Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold were the two men back on defense for the Sabres. Myers took Callahan who had the puck, and Leopold’s assignment was Stepan on the opposite wing. Callahan skated all the way down next to Enroth, waited for an open passing lane, then fed Stepan who buried his shot right in front of the net.
Goal Breakdown: Buffalo’s obviously struggled on the power play all season, but this time it was excruciatingly painful to watch. One man trying to get through two defenders to gain entry into the zone? That’s never going to happen, and that’s what Buffalo tried doing for the first 1:40 of their power play before Stepan scored. On the goal, Jordan Leopold was just lost. He never really had his eyes set on Stepan, instead he just skated backwards with his attention focused on Myers attempting to cover Callahan. Stepan simple crept in the slot, and Callahan hit him. Tyler Myers’ again was afraid to get physical with a star player. Callahan skated all over Myers, who tried stick checking the Rangers Captain off the puck. Myers didn’t come close, and that allowed Callahan to make a clean pass to Stepan in the slot.
Interim Head Coach Ron Rolston said at his post-game press conference that he was happy with Leopold’s first game back since he missed the last ten due to injury/healthy scratches. In my opinion happy meant he was just OK. Leopold showed his rust on that short handed goal.
Immedaitely after Stepan’s shorty, Buffalo would respond right away with heavy pressure. The Sabres were able to use the 13 seconds remaining on their power play to their advantage. Buffalo would finally gain New York’s zone with possession of the puck, and set up a premier scoring chance.
Right as Buffalo’s power play expired, Christian Ehrhoff had the puck at the point when he took a slap shot that missed wide to the left of the net. His shot went off the back wall and bounced to the opposite side where Foligno was standing. Foligno slickly tucked the rebound in-between his legs with his stick, and jammed it home to tie the game.
Goal Breakdown: I don’t think anyone saw Buffalo storming down the ice to tie the game 78 seconds after they had given up a short handed goal, but hard work and winning battles for the puck set this goal up. At first, Buffalo had gotten the puck in front of the net, but it never made it’s way through. The puck landed in the middle of traffic and Marcus Foligno was able to win the battle down low, and get the puck back to the point for Sekera who swung it across to Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff patiently waited, faked a shot which got Nash to go down immediately, skated to the side, and took his shot which created the rebound for Foligno.
After Foligno tied the game, Buffalo woke right up and started to take over the period.
At the 9:50 mark Jeff Halpern would be called for a slashing penalty which put Buffalo back on the power play. Once again, the Sabres would fail to put the puck in the net, but they would at least put on some consistent pressure. It only took 50 seconds after the power play expired for the Sabres to gain the lead.
The Rangers had the puck deep in Buffalo’s zone when Andrej Sekera stole it back and worked it alone the back wall for Hodgson. Hodgson had the puck behind Enroth, then fired a pass to Pominville who was at the Sabres half wall. Once Pominville received the pass from Hodgson, he saw Vanek streaking down the left wing. Pominville sent him a beautiful pass that he banked off the boards at the neutral zone, and bounced right in front of Vanek in the Rangers zone that sent him on a breakaway. Vanek went in on Lundqvist, waited for him to make his move, then sniped his shot on the short side.
Goal Breakdown: This was a very pretty play that you don’t see very often. A long lead pass banked off the boards at the neutral zone, and the result is a breakaway pass to your best forward — Thomas Vanek. Vanek walked in on Lundqvist and found a hole to aim for. When Vanek is all alone on a breakaway, he’s going to bury it 99 times out of 100. In fact, there has only been one time this season where Vanek has missed on a breakaway. That was in New Jersey which was Buffalo’s last shootout (in which they were losers in for the first time this season — Buffalo is 3-2 in shootouts this season).
The second period would end with Buffalo up 2-1.
In the third period, New York would take the game over, but wouldn’t be able to capitalize on any of their scoring chances. A lot of that had to do with Jhonas Enroth. Enroth was fantastic in the final period stopping all 18 Rangers shots on goal. Enroth’s biggest save came at the 18:33 mark when he stopped Marion Gaborik at point blank range with his blocker. Gabo missing from point blank range isn’t something you see everyday.
Marcus Foligno would tack on the insurance goal at the 11:48 mark in the third and final period.
Jochen Hecht had the puck in the neutral zone when he found Brian Flynn at the Rangers blue line. Flynn skated deep into Ranger territory, stopped at the left face-off circle, and patiently waited for numbers to enter the zone as he was all alone. Flynn waited till the last second when he found Sekera at the blue line. Sekera let a blast go that was right on net, and Foligno was down low in the blue paint to score his second goal of the night.
Goal Breakdown: Even though Hecht was out late on his shift with Flynn and Foligno out on the ice for theirs, the Flynn-Porter-Foligno line has been Buffalo’s best line in the past four-to-five games. The reason for that? They never stop moving their feet. They’re constantly skating trying to make plays, and always giving it everything they’ve got on every shift. Flynn was a prime example of that when he kept moving his feet down low buying his teammates more time to get open. His patience in New York’s zone caught the attention of every Ranger on the ice, which gave Sekera a wide open shooting lane once Flynn get him the puck.
Buffalo would go on to win the game 3-1, scoring three unanswered goals after they have given up a short handed goal. That’s something you don’t see very often in hockey. Usually when a team gives up a short handed goal, that team had already given up completely. In my opinion, if it weren’t for Foligno’s effort on his first goal, Buffalo was done. I’m not saying that because obviously his goal tied up the game at 1-1, but his goal rejuvenated Buffalo entirely.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella knows exactly what I’m talking about. In his post-game press conference, Tortorella said, “Buffalo was ripe for the beating,” and went on to say, “I’m not going to give Buffalo any credit on that win,” He added, “We sucked when we couldn’t afford to suck.” Tortorella is known for his emotion on and off the ice, but saying those things really just points the finger of blame right at himself. The Ranger organization has spent a lot of money over the past couple of years to bring in the Superstars that know how to get the job done. Tuesday night in Buffalo, Rick Nash and Marion Gaborik were no-shows.
I can see where Tortorella is coming from, his team is a better all around hockey club, but didn’t come to play. That’s nobodies fault but the head coaches.
As far as the Sabres go, it’s two points. Plain and simple. Did they deserve to win? I think they did, they fought hard and battled back after allowing a shorthanded goal to a team with a very potent offense. Although they’ve still got some work to do in the standings, the Sabres aren’t mathematically out of a playoff spot. Beating the Rangers was big if they have any shot at eighth place. New York is the current eighth place team, and beating them in regulation makes that win a four point win. Buffalo currently stands in 13th place with 23 points. Eighth place is currently held by the Winnipeg Jets with 30 points.
– Enroth’s win is his first since November 26, 2011.
– With his goal, Marcus Foligno ended a 20 game goal drought. His last goal came on the road against the Washington Capitals, January 27th.
– Buffalo’s “Superstarred” streak continues with Callahan’s assist on Stepan’s shorthanded goal.
– The Sabres are 4-4-2 in their last 10 games.
– Drew Stafford’s point streak against the Rangers stops at 3. Stafford had 6 points (5G + 1A) in the last three meetings against New York.
— Buffalo’s next game isn’t until Saturday when they play host to the Ottawa Senators. This is the third meeting between the two teams this season, but the first game played at the First Niagara Center. Ottawa has taken both meetings this season by scores of 4-3 & 2-0. Puck drop set for 3:00 pm.