There was no trick to be had Halloween night at Madison Square Garden as instead the Rangers delivered quite the treat, a thoroughly convincing 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. The win was New York's second in a row, and third in its last four games, and marked the first time this young season that the Blueshirts have won back-to-back contests. It also marked the Rangers first win on home ice---in two tries---this season.
Henrik Lundqvist earned his second shutout this year by stopping all 29 shots he faced. It was the 47th regular season shutout of Lundqvist's outstanding career and the 55th---including playoffs---he has backstopped while wearing a Rangers jersey.
Lundqvist was helped greatly by the fact that the puck was in Buffalo's end most of the night. The Rangers consistently pressured the Sabres into submission over 60 minutes, firing a season-high 46 shots on beleagured Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller, who singlehandedly kept his team in the game Thursday night. At one point in the first period the Rangers had registered 15 consecutive shots on goal.
Derick Brassard---in the opening period---and Chris Kreider---in the second---were the only Blueshirts able to find a way to get the puck past Miller. Every Ranger skater recorded at least one shot on goal except for Brandon Mashinter.
The Rangers followed up a 19-shot first period with another 19 shots in the middle stanza, and after 40 minutes of play the Rangers top line of Kreider-Derek-Stepan-Mats Zuccarello had totaled 17 shots on goal, one fewer than the entire Sabres lineup had managed against a sharp Lundqvist.
Brassard opened the scoring at 8:23 of the first period, blasting a power play slap shot past Miller off a feed from Michael Del Zotto. The Rangers now have three power play goals in their past two games, and four in their last four. Even when their power play failed to score later in the first period and early in the second, there still was a crispness to it and several scoring chances.
Kreider doubled the Rangers advantage 11:21 into the second when he chased down a rebound and banked the puck from a bad left-wing angle off the backside of Miller and over the goal line for his second goal of the season, and second in as many games. Playing once again like a man posessed, Kreider hunted down pucks all night long, generated a slew of scoring chances with Stepan and Zuccarello, and led the Rangers onslaught against Miller and his Sabre teammates.
In five games since being recalled from Hartford, Kreider has scored a pair of goals and toaled three points---equaling his output in both categories over 23 games from a year ago.
The Rangers beat Miller again later in the second period, but Marc Staal---playing in his 400th career National Hockey League game---saw his shot ring off the left post. Staal was not the only Blueshirt to celebrate a career milestone, however, Thursday night. Fellow defensemen Dan Girardi appeared in his 500th NHL game. Like Staal, he, too, came oh-so-close to scoring, but Girardi's point-blank first-period shot---off a terrific Zuccarello pass---was snuffed out by Miller.
At the other end of the ice Lundqvist faced only six shots in the first period, though was busier making 12 saves in the second. He closed out that middle stanza with a one-two punch by stoning both Drew Stafford and Jamie McBain in-tight with 40 seconds to play following a Rangers turnover.
That turnover was a rarity for the Blueshirts on Thursday night. And when the team did have a couple other breakdowns leading to odd-man rushes the other way, John Moore---in the second period---and Del Zotto---in the third--- hustled back to make big-time plays breaking up passes before Lundqvist was forced to face a quality shot.
The Rangers played without Dominic Moore, who will be sidelined a week to ten days due to a strained oblique muscle, as well as Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan. Mashinter took Moore's spot in the lineup and made his presence felt with a center-ice fight with Buffalo's Cody McCormick 5:33 into the game.
Thursday's contest was the start of a four-game homestand. Next up the Rangers will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.