K'Andre Miller's OT goal gives Rangers win over Sabres
You can’t expect to paint a masterpiece with every game, and the Rangers surely didn’t on Sunday. But they accomplished the primary mission, which was to take two points from the lowly Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden. K’Andre Miller scored 2:02 into overtime to give the Blueshirts a 5-4 win.
Miller finished a pass from Alexis Lafreniere on a rush to give the Rangers the victory after they’d blown an early 2-0 lead and a 4-3 third-period lead.
“It’s a mental thing,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s the same thing as in New Jersey [a 7-4 loss to the Devils in Newark on Tuesday] . . . Everybody was ready to play. They felt good. And then, for whatever reason, just, it’s hard to turn it off and on, and that’s what it looked like happened to us tonight.’’
The victory allowed the Rangers to keep pace with the Penguins in the battle for second place in the Metropolitan Division after Pittsburgh beat the Detroit Red Wings, 11-2, on Sunday.
The Penguins have one more point than the Rangers do (90-89) but also have played one more game. The two teams will face each other Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Two goals 18 seconds apart by newcomer Frank Vatrano put the Blueshirts up 2-0 by the 4:17 mark of the first period, and at that point it looked as if the Rangers would have an easy victory.
But Buffalo’s Rasmus Asplund got free at the back post and banged in a pass from Mattias Samuelsson to get the Sabres on the board at 18:12 of the period, and goals early in the second period by Will Butcher and Kyle Okposo gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead.
Lafreniere finished a pretty pass from Filip Chytil to tie it at 3-3 at 11:46 of the period.
Artemi Panarin banged in the rebound of Jacob Trouba’s shot at 3:52 of the third period to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead, and that looked as if it would carry the day for the Blueshirts (42-19-5). Patrik Nemeth then took a high-sticking penalty with 7:52 remaining, and Jeff Skinner scored on the power play at 13:07 to tie it.
The Rangers went on the attack in overtime and manufactured the winner after Miller forced a turnover and Andrew Copp scooped up the puck and carried it into the zone. He passed to Lafreniere, who passed to Miller for his sixth goal of the season and his second game-winner.
“I got a stick on it luckily, and Copper was right there and kind of started the play,’’ Miller said. “He handed it over to Laffy and Laffy found me high for walking down Main Street.’’
“It’s great to see him get a big goal like that,’’ Gallant said. “I mean, it’s just keeps adding to his confidence, and he played a pretty solid game again tonight. But we made some turnovers. We didn’t play as fast as we did the other night.’’
Gallant said the Rangers probably lost focus after they got the early lead.
“We thought it was going to be easy again,’’ he said, “and then you fall into that habit where we started turning pucks over again.’’