NEW YORK (AP) — The Rangers were especially eager to earn a home victory against the high-flying Buffalo Sabres to stem a series of subpar results. Three first-period goals and a thorough effort sparked the home team and a solid win ensued.
Ryan Strome scored his first two goals this season and Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves as New York snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
“That was obviously a good game,” said Strome, who had 18 goals for the Rangers last season after joining them in a trade from Edmonton. “Regardless of who produced, we needed that one as a team. It feels good right now. We worked hard for that one.”
The Rangers have been struggling since opening the season with two wins, followed by five defeats — the most recent in overtime to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Against the resurgent Sabres, who had eight wins in their first 10 games, the Rangers came out with pace and received goals from Artemi Panarin, Brett Howden and Strome in the opening period.
Panarin, who signed a seven-year $81.5 million free agent contract last July, started the scoring with an unassisted goal at 11:41. Panarin corralled a loose puck along the right boards before swooping in and beating Sabres goaltender Carter Hutton for his fifth goal of the season. Panarin has points in last three games and five of the team’s eight contests this season.
Howden made it 2-0 when he tapped the puck past Hutton at 14:32 for his second goal this season. Assists went to Brady Skjei and Jesper Fast.
Strome added to the lead with a tip-in at 19:22 with assists to Skjei and Tony DeAngelo. Strome’s goal represented the 200th point of his NHL career.
“There was a lot of communication out there,” Howden said. “We were really helping each other.”
The Rangers held a 10-7 shots advantage after the first period but the Sabres had the better of play in the second, outshooting the home team 15-4.
Defenseman Marco Scandella put Buffalo on the board with an unassisted goal at 4:17 of the second before DeAngelo restored the three-goal lead with his third goal in two games at 13:20. Skjei and Pavel Buchnevich assisted on DeAngelo’s fourth goal of the season.
Buffalo’s Vladimir Sobotka narrowed the deficit to 4-2 when he scored at 19:11 of the second, beating Lundqvist for his first goal this season. Kyle Okposo and Marcus Johansson registered assists.
The teams traded chances in the third until Strome extended the lead to 5-2 with this second goal of the night, completing a two-on-one with Howden at 7:57 as the teams skated four-on-four.
“Most important is that guys know their identity and it worked out tonight,” added the 26-year-old Strome, who has points in five of the last six games. “It was a good statement game that we had it in us to beat a team that’s 8-1-1.”
Chris Kreider completed the scoring with his first of the season at 18:44 of the third. Rookie defenseman Adam Fox had an assist – his first NHL point – and Fast added his second assist of the contest.
“We didn’t show the Rangers enough respect and they punished us for it,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. “There were so many moments where we felt like we were getting back into it. We just couldn’t recover from the hole we dug ourselves into.”
Rangers coach David Quinn continued reshuffling lines in search of new combinations as the season evolves. Against the Sabres, Quinn had Panarin alongside Strome and Buchnevich while heralded rookie right wing Kaapo Kakko was on a line with center Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.
“It was a good step in the right direction. I give our leaders a ton of credit,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t just the lines. A lot of guys came here with purpose tonight.”
The loss was the first for Hutton after six wins and starts this season as the Sabres fell to 1-5-2 in their last eight meetings with the Rangers.
With his 451st career win, Lundqvist moved to within three victories of Curtis Joseph for fifth place on the all-time list. The 37-year-old Swedish netminder also made his 862nd career appearance, passing Jean Ratelle for sixth-most appearances as a Ranger.
“We were patient. We played hard, waited for breakdowns and we took advantage,” Lundqvist said. “It was great to see. It’s important to understand how you win games in this league.”
NOTES: The Rangers are 16-4-0 against Buffalo since Apr. 19, 2013 . The teams will meet Feb. 7 in New York and March 22 in Buffalo . The Rangers scratched forward Micheal Haley . The Sabres scratched forward Evan Rodrigues and defenseman John Gilmour … The contest marked the 1,999th regular season game played by the Rangers at the current Madison Square Garden, which opened in 1968. … The game marked the return of forward Jimmy Vesey, who was traded to the Sabres last summer after three seasons with the Rangers.
Rangers: Host Boston Bruins on Sunday night.
Sabres: Visit Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.