BUFFALO - On the edge of what would have been a deflating loss to the toothless Sabres, Keith Yandle pushed the Rangers when they needed it most in their 2-0 win Saturday night.
Yandle, acquired from Arizona at the March 2 trade deadline, scored his first goal in six games as a Ranger, wristing a shot from the point through traffic past 6-6 Anders Lindback at 7:31 of the third period to snap a scoreless tie. Martin St. Louis scored an empty-netter with 32.7 seconds left to seal the Rangers' fourth win in a row.
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"It was a good play by Marty to open the lane a little more and gave me time to shoot it," Yandle said. "Great screen. I didn't see it actually go in. Just saw the reaction. I didn't know if it got tipped or whether I should celebrate."
Rookie Mackenzie Skapski, 20, making his second NHL start, kept the Sabres at bay for his first shutout and second win -- both here at First Niagara Center -- with 20 saves. After allowing a goal 14 seconds into his NHL debut -- on the first shot he saw -- his shutout streak against Buffalo reached 119:46.
Wearing the Broadway Hat and remnants of a shaving cream pie from Chris Kreider, Skapski credited the defense for limiting shots. "I think I only had to make two or three big saves," he said. "I was a little nervous. I had only played 60 minutes in the NHL. I think the breakaway save in the first period [on Tyler Ennis at 6:15] really settled me down, then a quick break on a two-on-one [darting left to stop Brian Gionta], that propelled me through the rest of the game."
The Rangers (93 points), who lead the Metropolitan Division and are tied for the most points in the NHL, moved three points ahead of the Islanders and have four games in hand.
Yandle has admitted that he has been struggling with the transition to a team with so many weapons after coming from a team in which the offense essentially ran through him.
"It's just getting used to a new team," he said. "I've been in one place so long, I'm just trying to find my place here, and hopefully it'll get even better."
With the game scoreless after 40 minutes, Derek Stepan was tripped early in the third, but the Rangers couldn't connect on their third power play. Lindback stopped Kreider's tip of Dan Girardi's shot and two more shots. Jesper Fast then hit the post -- the fourth time that happened in the game for the Blueshirts -- after the man-advantage ended.
The Rangers are 1-for-their-last-19 with the man advantage. They were 0-for-3 on the power play Saturday night but killed off all three shorthanded situations.
Back to those four posts hit by the Rangers:
On a first-period power play, Derick Brassard's shot tipped off Lindback's glove and kissed the post, and J.T. Miller rang the iron from the right side before the man-advantage ended.
In the second, Matt Hunwick fed St. Louis for a breakaway, and he drew Lindback out of the cage before his backhander grazed his pad and struck the pipe. Fast hit metal in the third.
In 19 games without injured Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers are 14-2-3 and have scored 60 goals and allowed 42. They are 5-0-1 in the last six.
Skapski, a sixth-round pick in 2013 who backstopped the Rangers to a 3-1 win here on Feb. 20, did all he could. He is the youngest Rangers goalie since Dan Blackburn, who was 19 on Nov. 7, 2002, to post a shutout.
"I think you have to give a lot of credit to our scouts -- another late-round pick that can come in and contribute," coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's only played two games, it's a small sample, but he's been all right."