The Rangers needed two points in this one. They came away with one against the worst team in the NHL. That won’t cut it. While Linus Ullmark was solid in net for Buffalo, and certainly made some great saves, Buffalo walked all over the Rangers from start to finish, including OT and the shootout. This was not the same game as Thursday, when the Rangers were dominant, but they were similar in that Buffalo got great goaltending.
The Rangers were very passive in this one. They allowed the Sabres to skate through the neutral zone with tremendous speed, thus ceding the blue line and, given the speed, continued offensive pressure. Igor Shesterkin played very well, but it wasn’t enough to steal both points. There’s a solid case that the Rangers wouldn’t even have one point if not for him in this one.
Some positives though: Vitali Kravtsov looked good. He’s strong along the boards, and the effort is certainly there. I noticed him circling around the slot and high slot areas, so he’s looking to get into the high danger areas as well. Also David Quinn gave the kids some important minutes. They didn’t fumble it, at least not worse than anyone else would have tonight, so that’s a positive too.
Rangers 1, Sabres 0 – The hard shot pass
There's never a missed opportunity when you're the Breadman. pic.twitter.com/NLgshX2lDK
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 3, 2021
This was a strong play by Chris Kreider, recognizing the streaking Mika Zibanejad would draw attention, and his hard pass would create an opportunity in the corner. This was recognition off the prior Colin Blackwell play, where his pass off Ullmark’s pads almost led to a Ryan Lindgren goal. This time around, the puck in the corner led to Ullmark getting tied up with his own defenseman, and Artemi Panarin had an empty net.
Rangers 1, Sabres 1 – Trapped
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) April 3, 2021
The Sabres trapped four Rangers in the offensive zone, leading to a two-on-one the other way. Ryan Lindgren took away the pass across to Taylor Hall, but Casey Middlestadt was able to beat Shesterkin anyway.
Rangers 2, Sabres 1 – Adam Fox for Norris
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) April 4, 2021
Adam Fox looked off the entire Sabres team, which opened a clear lane to a wide open Artemi Panarin. Taylor Hall was in No Man’s Land on this one. Panarin isn’t his man, but he’s just in the middle of nowhere.
Rangers 2, Sabres 2 – Turnover
— Buffalo Hockey moments (@SabresPlays) April 4, 2021
Sam Reinhart forced Panarin into a turnover along the boards. Kyle Okposo came away with the puck, a quick feed to Victor Oloffson, and the game was tied.
Shot Heatmap – No Bueno
This is just flat out awful. Buffalo had full control of the third period. Yes, they were pressing. But the Rangers were way too passive, allowing a ton of speed through the neutral zone and sustained offensive zone pressure. The Rangers lucked out here.
Skater Results – Third Pair Yikes
This was a rough one for Libor Hajek and Brendan Smith. The pairing is mostly propped up by Smith, but I saw a few times when he was out of position. One that really stuck out was when he laid a hit on Tage Thompson up at the half wall in the third period. That is not where he should be at all.
A shootout loss to Buffalo puts a big damper in the Rangers playoff hopes, however slim they were. They have two days off to regroup, but this was not a good look for a team looking to make a push. There’s not much else to say about this one.