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Rangers score 3 power-play goals in first period, rout Sabres

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers

Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the Buffalo Sabres with teammates Mats Zuccarello #36 and Dan Girardi #5 during an NHL game at at Madison Square Garden, Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Rangers didn't waste any time opening their New Year with fireworks.

Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and Rick Nash scored power-play goals in a span of 2:32 of the first period and the Blueshirts rolled on from there, slicing and dicing the slumping Sabres, 6-1, Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers (21-11-4) scored six goals for the first time this season and easily captured their 10th win in 11 games. The Sabres, in a 1-7-1 slide and near the basement in the Eastern Conference, never recovered from a four-goal first-period blitz.

A much tougher challenge for the Rangers comes this week: a three-game California road trip against the Ducks, the Stanley Cup champion Kings and the Sharks. But for the fifth home game in a row, fans could celebrate a win at the Garden.

When Dan Boyle's high wrister from the left side at even strength at 12:34 of the first period zipped over Michael Neuvirth for the fourth goal in nine shots, the writing was on the wall. Sabres coach Ted Nolan yanked Neuvirth for Jhonas Enroth.

Kreider said of dealing with a large lead so quickly: "It was weird. We've had so many close games. But when you capitalize on the power play like that, it's different. You need to challenge yourself to continue to play your game, keep practicing good habits and play defense."

The Rangers continued to move the puck through center ice with impunity, and Carl Hagelin's shot from the slot deflected off defenseman Mike Weber to make it 5-0 at 2:26.

The Sabres' Drew Stafford scored on a wraparound 22 seconds later, and coach Alain Vigneault called a timeout to get the Rangers back in focus on defense.

The Blueshirts weren't done. After Enroth made eight saves on their fourth power play with Weber in the box for boarding, Jesper Fast's shot was stopped by Enroth's pad at the 15-minute mark of the second. Problem was, Enroth's pad was behind the goal line. That was confirmed by video replay, and the Rangers went ahead 6-1.

At that point, four Rangers -- Nash, who scored his 24th goal, Brassard, Boyle and Martin St. Louis -- had two points each and nine other teammates had a point. Nash is 5-3-8 in six games against the Sabres as a Ranger.

The Rangers did commit a couple of unnecessary penalties in the third when the game was out of hand, but that was a minor flaw.

Remarkably, the string of power-play goals wasn't the fastest trio with a man-advantage in franchise history: On Nov. 21, 1995, the Rangers scored three in 1:10 against the Penguins.

But there is little doubt that the power play, ranked 17th before the game, finally is thriving, with 10 goals in the past 20 opportunities over eight games.

Kreider, who scored the second power-play goal after picking up a goal and an assist in Florida on New Year's Eve, appears to be coming on.

In the end, it was another easy outing for Henrik Lundqvist (18-8-3), who made 24 saves. He is 9-1-0 in his last 10 starts, allowing two or fewer goals in eight of them.

Lundqvist said of the upcoming western trip: "It's going to be a great test for us. Three really good teams, and there's some memories out there as well for us. We'll see what it feels like walking into that building [Staples Center in L.A.]."

New York Sports