BUFFALO — Old habits seem to die hard with this Rangers team, and a few have clearly plagued the club in the early days of their window to power up for the playoffs.
Yet they still can win games.
In front of a deafening crowd that filled KeyBank Center with dueling chants all night, Artemi Panarin scored a power-play goal 2:02 into overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 win over the Sabres on Saturday night.
Igor Shesterkin, who seemed to be having a bit of trouble seeing the puck earlier in the game, came up with several key saves throughout the game en route to 32 stops for the Rangers.
As the game progressed, Shesterkin got sharper and even made the save of the game with seconds to go in regulation when Dylan Cozens ripped a point blank shot right in front.
Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant, who insinuated on Friday that the team’s recent play was making it difficult for him not to switch up the lines, put his top nine in a blender in the third period.
The fourth unit of Jimmy Vesey, Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey, which was one of the few lines that could hold the zone throughout the game, remained intact.
Every other line was jumbled, with Artemi Panarin moving up to the left wing of Mika Zibanejad and Vladimir Tarasenko, while Chris Kreider was bumped to the left of Vincent Trocheck and Kaapo Kakko.
Patrick Kane then slotted into the right-wing spot of Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil.
The Rangers are still playing too much east-west hockey.
More often than not, they are passing backward on the rush, opting for the pretty feed or looking to make the extra pass for a better look.
After an uneventful and scoreless first period, both teams finally got on the board in the middle frame.
Though the Rangers controlled a good portion of the opening 20 minutes, the Sabres owned the second period.
Outshooting the visitors 13-5, Buffalo seemed to have more energy, but the game still went into the second intermission with the score tied 1-1.
Sabres defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin sent a cross-ice feed to Jeff Skinner, who blasted a bullet of a one-timer past Shesterkin at 7:51 of the second.
Just over 3 ½ minutes later, however, Patrick Kane’s backhanded centering feed deflected in off Owen Power’s skate to even the score. It was Kane’s second goal in as many games and his third point as a Ranger.
Shesterkin nearly handed the Sabres the lead shortly after that, when the Rangers netminder attempted a stretch pass that was intercepted at the blue line by Tyson Jost, who scored on a wide-open net.
The play was quickly ruled offside and there was a pile up along the boards over the shot.
Despite that misplay of the puck, Shesterkin stood tall to keep the score tied.
He came up big with back-to-back saves in front toward the end of the period, including a right pad save on Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.
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