1) After closing out 2016 with two important wins against the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche, the New York Rangers did not show up to start 2017, falling to the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 at Madison Square Garden.
2) The first game back from a road trip is always a difficult one in professional sports for some odd reason, and the Blueshirts struggled to find their legs in the first 15 minutes. “I wish I would had an answer, whoever figures that one out is going to be a very rich man or woman,” alternate captain Derek Stepan said.
3) “Its a game of momentum,” Stepan continued. “You got to be able to get it and keep it. When you don’t have it, have to try and get it back as fast as you can. Tonight, they had the momentum battle won.”
4) Zemgus Girgensons made a pretty move to open up the scoring at 12:17 of the first period. Then, just as the Rangers started to find their rhythm, Mats Zuccarello had a brutal turnover, leading to a Sam Reinhart shot that Henrik Lundqvist should have held onto. Instead, he allowed a juicy rebound and Evander Kane gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead and all the momentum heading into the first intermission.
5) The Rangers did get on the board late in the second period as Nick Holden hammered home his eighth goal of the year. New York originally acquired Holden for a fourth-round draft pick at the most recent NHL draft. The move has helped solidify an underperforming defensive group.
6) Holden’s steady play has been a welcomed addition to the Rangers defensive group, but is only getting credit for his game after scoring a few goals. Holden struggled to pick up Alain Vigneault’s system in the first few weeks of the 2016-17 regular season, but has transformed into a steady, reliable defenseman for the Blueshirts.
7) J.T. Miller was awarded the primary assist on the goal, but set up the play before it even began. After getting tripped up just inside the offensive zone, Miller’s second effort kept the play alive. He made a diving play to send the puck to the other side of the rink, and allow Lundqvist to get to the bench for the extra attacker, and other skaters to join the rush. Miller extended his point streak three games and has 15 assists this season.
8) The Rangers had some momentum heading into the second intermission, only trailing by two goals, but Jack Eichel quickly put the game out of reach early in the third period. Jimmy Vesey was called for hooking just 18 seconds into the final frame, and Eichel connected on the man-advantage.
9) “For me, our execution tonight is really what surprised me,” Stepan added. “We just weren’t even close.”
10) Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals on 19 shots and did not look on top of his game once again.
11) As for the defense, Kevin Klein had another forgettable game. His turnover led to Justin Baileys first NHL goal early in the second period. Will Adam Clendening rejoin the Rangers lineup Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers?
12) Henrik Lundqvist made his 712th career appearance with the Rangers in tonight’s contest, passing Olaf Kolzig for the fourth-most appearances by a goaltender with one franchise in NHL history. The only goaltenders in NHL history who have appeared in more career games with one franchise than Lundqvist has with the Rangers are Martin Brodeur (New Jersey), Tony Esposito (Chicago), and Terry Sawchuk (Detroit).
13) Alain Vigneault coached his 286th career game as the Rangers’ Head Coach tonight, passing Herb Brooks for sole possession of seventh place on the franchise’s all-time games coached list.
14) “I haven’t said this very often about this group since I have been here, but this was a very bad game, where we got outworked badly,” Vigneault said. “We are going to have to respond here.”
15) The Rangers will look to respond Wednesday evening when they battle the Philadelphia Flyers on NBC Sports Network.