With the reeling Sabers leading their 13-game losing streak to the Garden on Monday night, there were instances where the Rangers were playing their opponents as they have often done this season.
However, the Blueshirts continued to connect points on offense and posted a 5-3 victory, sending the Sabers on their way with one more loss to bear.
There was an obvious need for familiarity across the lineup to start the season, and it appears the Rangers are beginning to establish it. Because in the last six games, the Rangers have outscored their opponents 26-11, including 18-6 in the last four.
“I think the main reason the offense is coming is [Mika] Zibanejad, now you have that line playing like they did last year and they are going to contribute, ”interim head coach Kris Knoblauch said of the top line, which combined for two goals and two assists. “I think [Ryan] Strome, [Artemi] Panarin, all year round, [have been] pretty consistent.
“But now, with Zibanejad playing as well as with [Chris] Kreider and [Pavel Buchnevich]They are one of the best lines in the league right now. “
From the power play, penalty, even force and five-on-three, the Rangers have been finding ways to put the puck in the back of the net recently. And there will soon be another offensive weapon in his arsenal, with Vitali Kravtsov expected to join the team on Tuesday should he remove the rest of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.
While their offense is revitalized, the Rangers are still caught flat-footed coming out of intermission. The Sabers scored all three of their goals in the first five minutes of the second and third periods.
Buffalo scored two early goals in the third to tie it 3-3, but the Rangers were able to rely on the players who have been, and should be, powering their offense after struggling to do so earlier in the season. Behind two power play goals from Kreider and two goals from Kaapo Kakko, including an empty scoreboard, the Rangers prevailed.
“I feel like we make it a bit complicated, we are trying to do too much and obviously that can’t happen,” Zibanejad said of the team’s slow starts in the last two periods. “Even after one-nothing, I think [goaltender] Keith [Kinkaid] saves us and keeps us in this game and great things for him. Obviously it has to be much better, but we came out of this with two points and we are happy with that ”.
Adam Fox, who is skating in his 100th game with the Rangers, recorded a goal and two assists, including one on Kreider’s lead count at 5:47 of the third. And Panarin was Panarin, recording a three-assist night.
Just 2:53 into the game, all of Julien Gauthier’s 6-foot-4 pounced on Sabers goalkeeper Carter Hutton, sending him into the locker room favoring his left leg. As a result, Dustin Tokarski, who had a one-season cameo with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in 2018-19, made his first NHL appearance since October 8, 2016.
So when Rasmus Asplund gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 3:52 of the second, the possibility of losing to a Sabers team that is in the basement of not just the East but the entire NHL, and now without Their starting goalkeeper must have woken up the Blueshirts. They quickly turned around and scored three goals in a row to take a 3-1 lead in the final 20 minutes.
The difference between the Rangers at the start of the season and the Rangers who won on Monday was the offensive chemistry that allowed them to do so.