Rangers break slide with sharp win
BUFFALO -- Without putting on airs (no rifleman poses), the Rangers Saturday night showed the Buffalo Sabres some lake-effect glow here to ice a two-game winless streak in ways that merited some sort of celebratory gesture.
Two shorthanded goals, overlapping Swedish rookie Carl Hagelin's pair of scores, boosted the Rangers to a 4-1 victory -- the 2,500th in the history of the 85-year-old franchise.
By scoring twice while killing penalties, the first by Hagelin and the second on forward Ryan Callahan's whirling dervish move, the Rangers eventually provided the juice to a game that had gone long stretches with spontaneous ineptitude from both offenses.
While backup goalie Martin Biron -- who finished with 32 saves -- was holding the fort, the speedy Hagelin struck at 11:34 of the second period, streaking down the left wing and firing over goalie Jhonas Enroth's left shoulder from the left dot.
Though Buffalo answered immediately on Thomas Vanek's 14th goal of the season, a blast that skipped off Biron's right toe into the net, Callahan's highlight play 1:09 before the second intermission put the Rangers ahead to stay.
The Callahan score was a one-man show. He stole the puck at his own blue line, skated along the right boards and, as Buffalo defender Christian Ehrhoff cut him off in the right circle, spun clockwise, backed in, pirouetted counterclockwise and shot past the shocked Enroth.
"[Ehrhoff] had a step on me and I can't really bring it to the net," Callahan said. "So I turned my back, just to try to protect the puck, try to fake one way and bring it back the other way, hoping to surprise the goalie, hoping he wasn't expecting me to shoot. And I think I did."
Hagelin's second goal was another flying attack down the left wing and another bullet over Enroth's glove with 16:58 left in the third. Within seconds, forward Marian Gaborik almost one-upped Callahan's style points by shooting from his knees as he skidded toward the net, but Ehrhoff got his pad on it.
Later, Gaborik got his reward for a solid night's work: his 14th goal of the season with 2:34 to play.
All in all, the result hardly was out of the ordinary as the Rangers improved to 16-6-4. They have not gone three games without a victory since their 0-1-2 start to the season. And, while league goalies generally have been eaten up a bit by the Buffalo wings -- Vanek (on the left) and Jason Pominville (right) have totaled 24 goals and 60 points this season -- the Sabres (15-12-2) have struggled on home ice (7-9-2).
Plus, as Callahan noted, Buffalo was coming off an overtime victory over Florida Friday night and was prone to the Rangers "wearing on them . . . to eventually create some opportunities."
Hagelin, the 23-year-old wing called up from the minors six games ago, enjoyed his ability to "help the team out," he said. "I'm not here to score goals. Just try to play well." But he made the best of his opportunity to play on the penalty-kill unit.
"And Marty made a lot of good saves," Hagelin was quick to note. From behind him, Biron, with a wink and a laugh, chimed in as if a mere observer: "Yes, he did."