The Buffalo Sabres tried their best to make their game Thursday night against the New York Rangers competitive. For about 43 minutes, it was. But New York's superior talent won out over Buffalo's desire in the end and kicked the door down to a 3-0 win at the First Niagara Center.
The Sabres once again started slowly, albeit not quite as slowly as in games past. Buffalo controlled much of the play through the period and were nearly even in shots on goal. But at 17:47, Rick Nash scored the type of goal snipers get paid to score. He juked Ryan Miller while breaking in on goal and then stuffed it past Miller's stick side to open the scoring. Many people might think that goal – Nash's fifth of the season – is the type you simply tip your cap to the opposition for. Miller wasn't so laudatory, though:
"I've seen him play before. I should have had that one."
The Sabres kept the deficit at one after one period and again after two. The Sabres were outshot 21-14 after 40 minutes but hung tough with New York. And the third period started well, with Buffalo applying heavy pressure. But one ill-timed penalty proved their undoing, as Cody Hodgson was called for tripping after reaching for the rebound of a breakaway chance of his that was stuffed by Henrik Lundqvist. Less than a minute later, Brad Richards iced the game at 8:29 on the power play with his eighth goal of the year.
"Those are the types of things that are killing us," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "The timing of these mistakes is really bad."
Mats Zuccarello gave New York its third and final goal of the night six minutes later, beating Miller from the faceoff circle for his fifth marker of the year. Miller seemed out of place on the goal, something he more or less acknowledged:
"Terrible goal. I didn't trust myself and where I was."
Tyler Ennis helped Buffalo avoid back-to-back shutout losses in the final two minutes. Zemgus Girgensons scooped up a Lundqvist turnover along the board and fed Ennis in front of the net. Ennis tucked the puck in for Buffalo's sole tally. Buffalo managed 14 shots for the period and was outshot for the game, 31-28.
Buffalo's sense of urgency in the third period was something players said they want to build upon going forward.
"It was a better game than we saw earlier in the year," Miller said. "Just keep doing what they're doing. No complaints from me."
"The last couple games, we seem we're struggling to get some goals," defenseman Tyler Myers said. "We've got to come to the rink tomorrow and figure a way out of this."
Richards also had an assist for the Rangers, who improved to 15-14-0. The Sabres fell to 6-21-2. Buffalo next plays Saturday at Montreal.
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