“Somebody get that man a cold beer and make it quick!”
For the second time in as many games Rick Nash resembled the power forward the Rangers thought they were acquiring when they traded for him back in 2012.
Too frequently Nash has failed to be the dominate version of himself that existed in Columbus.
However, if you ask the Flyers and Sabres if he’s changed at all from his younger days you’ll get a resounding NO.
Much like they did against the Flyers, the Rangers came out skating well. And a Pavel Buchnevich pass to a streaking Nash resulted in a breakaway.
And just like against Philadelphia, Nash buried the puck by elevating it, rather than keeping it on the ice.
The quick 1-0 lead was critical for the Blueshirts as they found themselves in an unexpected seesaw affair with their intrastate neighbors.
Much to the chagrin of the Rangers, Buffalo earned a power-play as time wound down in the opening period.
And for once the Blueshirts’ penalty-kill had an off night as Kyle Okposo converted the Sabres power-play opportunity into the game-tying goal.
From there the game headed to the second period. And it strongly resembled the first.
The Broadway Blueshirts came out with an edge, although not nearly the way they did to open the game.
Then J.T. Miller took advantage of a seam in the Buffalo defense and wired a shot past Robin Lehner; giving the Rangers the 2-1 lead.
Well, if the opening minutes of the second period mirrored the first period, then so did the closing minutes.
Former-Ranger Justin Falk broke a 100-game goalless drought, sneaking a long shot through multiple screens, past Lundqvist and into the Blueshirts’ net; tying the game at two.
The third period came around and it followed the pattern of the first two.
6:49 into the final period Nash found himself with a golden opportunity.
The puck bounded right onto his stick off a rebound from the boards and Robin Lehner was out of position, creating a wide open net for the surging goal-scorer.
And Nash didn’t miss; giving the Rangers the 3-2 lead.
Alas, the game of chicken wasn’t over as the Sabres again took advantage of a Blueshirts’ penalty and tied the game with their second power-play marker of the evening.
This one courtesy of Rasmus Ristolainen.
Fortunately, the Rangers weren’t willing to play for overtime.
With 3:58 to go in regulation, Mika Zibanejad showed off his deft skating and passing skills by circling past Lehner and the Sabres defense.
From below the goal-line Zibanejad passed the puck out to a streaking Buchnevich, who tapped it in for the 4-3 lead.
Thankfully, the cat-and-mouse game ended there. But not without some drama right at the end.
With Buffalo’s net empty, the Sabres went on the attack and Henrik Lundqvist was forced to make several brilliant saves in order to preserve his team’s fragile one-goal lead.
Among his highlight reel saves was a beauty on a shot from Ristolainen with five seconds to go.
The King later admitted he didn’t see the puck after it was shot. “I saw it when it left his stick and I kind of had to read where it was going to end up.”
Lundqvist saved both the puck and the game as the Rangers held on to win 4-3.
BLUESHIRT BULLET POINTS
FRIENDLY CONFINES: Dating back to October 26, the Rangers are 15-4-1 at MSG. And they’ve tallied at least a point in 20 of 28 home contests this season (17-8-3).
NZB: When Chris Kreider went down so did the KZB Line. Not to worry, as Nash has taken over Kreider’s spot to form a new, equally dominant line; NZB. Since the line’s formation, Nash has four goals in two games; three of which have been assisted by Buchnevich.
PAPA JOHN’S: The Blueshirts have gotten their scoring touch back and that’s good news for pizza lovers. The Rangers tallied at least four goals for the second straight game, meaning they’ve had some leftovers on their discounted pizza.
HIS MAJESTY: While it wasn’t his best game of the season, Lundqvist made the big saves when they mattered most; guiding his team to victory. Henrik has posted at least a .900 SV% in each of his last 16 starts; the longest such streak of his career.
The Rangers face Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche Saturday (Jan. 20) at Pepsi Center. Game time: 3 p.m. ET. Broadcast: MSG Network.
They can’t all be masterpieces, but the Rangers found a way to get things done when it mattered most.
And the Blueshirts will gladly take the two points as they head out on a four-game Western Conference road trip.