Rangers Perfect Start Spoiled By Sabres

by: Joe McDonald | Publisher and Editor-in-Chief | Thursday, October 16, 2008

NEW YORK – It was bound to happen. With a perfect start so far to the season, the Rangers were due for a stink bomb.

And against the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden, the stench exploded.

“We were flat tonight,” said left wing Aaron Voros. “We were not prepared I guess. We have to get back to the drawing board to what made us successful.”

After playing a well round brand of hockey the first five games of the season, the Blueshirts just couldn’t get anything started against the Sabres, who cruised to a 3-1 win.

Now, no team will go 82-0, but it just looked like a different Ranger squad out there on the ice. They didn’t complete the checks; didn’t clear the puck from their own zone; and didn’t drive to the net against Ryan Miller, who stopped 19 shots.

Maybe, like the Giants on Monday, this team was beginning to believe its own hype.

“It’s a possibility sure,” coach Tom Renney said. “The choice to engage, the choice to be passionate about the game, to have an emotional attachment to the game, that's one thing we've been able to do up to this point in time. Maybe they started thinking, 'We're for real and this is all wonderful,' but you really have to invest time and effort to be a winner.”

Even with the poor effort throughout the game, the Rangers were able to stay with the Sabres throughout the match, and even led 1-0 after one when Scott Gomez tipped Michal Rozsival’s shot past Miller at 6:32. Yet, the Rangers only had three shots on goals during the first 20, which is unacceptable for any of the Blueshirts.

“We didn’t put the puck on the net,” Renney said. “We didn’t share the puck near the net. Maybe it was that type of game.”

During the match, the special teams, which was so good during the first five games, also broke down, allowing two power play goals in the second and a short hander in the third.

With Rozsival in the box, Ales Kotalik was able to knock one by Henrik Lundqvist at 5:03 of the second which tied the game.

Then the game took a turn for the worse. Paul Mara was run by Patrick Kaleta at 10:03, which prompted the Rangers’ defenseman to pound the Sabres’ wing, who didn’t fight back. Mara got a five minute major for fighting and a game misconduct, putting Buffalo in position to take the lead.

And when Thomas Vanek tip in the rebound of Derek Roy’s shot, which went off Lundqvist’s glove, a little less than three minutes later, the Sabres went ahead for good.

“I thought we got away from some of the good things we were doing,” said left wing Markus Naslund. “We know we can play a lot better even though we won the first five games. You can’t give teams chances like that. It was a tight game out there.”

The close match was good for the Rangers and they had their chance to tie it in the third when Craig Rivet went to the box on a double minor for high sticking Ryan Callahan. The Blueshirts did nothing on the power play, while Vanek scored a short hander at 1:10.

Although Renney tried to shift around the left wings for the rest of the game, it did nothing for the Rangers attack.

“It was a tough game,” said Lundqvist who stopped only 15 shots on the night and allowed more than two goals for the first time this season. “They are a good team. The difference [between winning and losing] is not big. We could have had a couple of goals in the first half of the game. I don’t know. They were just a little bit better than us, especially on the power play.”

Notes: Mara’s fight was apparently payback for a hit Kaleta put on him last season. Although he got tossed from the game, Renney seemed ok with him making a decision, which was a critique of the rest of the Rangers.