It had been almost five years since the New York Rangers scored three power play goals in one period. On Saturday night, in front of a packed Garden crowd, the Blueshirts scored three times with the extra man in the first period, en route to a 6-1 rout of the Buffalo Sabres in an Eastern Conference showdown.
The three goals came in an impressive span of 2:32. You would have to look back nearly a decade to find a time where the Rangers did it as fast. Going back to the glory days of Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Adam Graves, the Blueshirts put up three power play goals in 1:10 against Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 21, 1995.
New York’s first two tallies with the man-up came in a short stint of 1:07. At the 8:46 mark of the period, Martin St. Louis played the puck from the bottom of the right circle to the stick of Derick Brassard, who re-directed a shot over the left shoulder of Michal Neuvirth for the early one-goal lead.
It didn’t take long for the Rangers to find themselves on the power play again. An immediate bench minor assessed to the Sabres following Brassard’s goal gave New York another two-minute advantage. The Blueshirts didn’t waste it either. On a rush back up the ice off a Buffalo clear, J.T. Miller fed the puck through a small window to Chris Kreider. Using his impeccable speed to get to the cage, the Boston College product went to his backhand and beat Neuvirth to make it 2-0.
Much to the chagrin of the Sabres, Kreider not only scored the second goal of the game, but drew another penalty. Upon finding the back of the net, Kreider was hooked by Buffalo’s Cody McCormick to set up a third Ranger power play in a span of 1:21.
This time, it was Rick Nash that made Ted Nolan’s team pay with his 24th goal of the season. Using his entire 6-foot-4 frame, the former top overall draft pick in 2002 got to the front of the net, stickhandled between his legs, and flicked a shot over Neuvirth to widen New York’s lead to 3-0.
“They took that bench minor, and right away our first look we scored,” commented Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s about the team’s hot start with the man advantage. “Kreids (Kreider) was getting hooked, so the referee had to make the call and the power play went 3-for-3.”
“We got off to a good start,” said Blueshirts’ defenseman Dan Boyle. “The guys worked hard and made some good plays out there.”
Boyle skated just as hard, tacking on his third goal of the year at 12:34. That sent the Rangers into the first intermission with a more-than-comfortable 4-0 cushion. Despite dominating the scoresheet, the Blueshirts only held an 11-10 edge in shots through 20 minutes of play.
Carl Hagelin and Jesper Fast also joined the evening’s goal parade, as they found the back of the net for their eighth and third markers of the year, respectively, in the second period.
That proved to be all Vigneault’s team needed to pick up their 10th win in 11 games. “Well, we played a real good game in Florida, so we wanted to continue playing well tonight. Our guys knew what they had to do and some nights are like these. We got early power plays and we were able to make them pay for it. And after that, we did what we had to do to win the game.”
He later added about the team’s current winning stretch: “Our mindset hasn’t changed. We get ready for a game, we play it and we analyze it. We look at the areas that we need to get better and then we move on to the next one. That’s what we did prior to this game, and that’s what we are going to do here prior to Anaheim.”
The trip to Anaheim is part of a tough three-game road trip next week along the West Coast. The Rangers will face the Ducks on Wednesday and San Jose Sharks on Saturday, sandwiched by a Stanley Cup Final re-match Thursday at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s going to be a great test for us,” stated Rangers’ goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who saved 24 of 25 shots, on the upcoming road trip. “Three really good teams and obviously some memories out there as well from last year. We are excited to go. It is a good test for us right now. We have been playing some really good hockey, and facing three good teams, let’s see if we are up for the task.”