|Brad Richards celebrates his first career hat trick.
Copyright Getty Images/by Gary Wiepert
Sometimes, all it takes is a good bounce to get out of a slump. Brad Richards has had a forgettable second season on Broadway. Prior to yesterday, he had only six goals in his first 40 games. After tonight, Richie has four in the last two including his first NHL career hat trick. Richards scored three of the Rangers’ season high eighth goals in an 8-4 rout of the Sabres- eliminating them from contention.
In many ways, tonight’s game was a microcosm of how the Rangers have played. They scored six-or-more for the second consecutive game, improving to 3-0-0. In fact, they put up the first six before Buffalo made it interesting. In no way shape or form was this a complete effort. Unfortunately, that’s been the norm for them and further explains why they’re still on the playoff bubble entering the final week. It still ranked as one of the more memorable games our team’s played.
The Blueshirts shattered a team record by scoring five goals in a 2:58 span. The previous record was five in 3:22 established in 1985. Carl Hagelin started the explosion when he centered a pass off a Sabre past Ryan Miller at 18:42. The next two were about as unpredictable as hockey gets. As I was remarking to Dad that Richards looked more engaged, he threw a puck that took a funny hop off Christian Ehrhoff by Miller. What happened next was mind numbing. Even if you’re a Ranger fan, you had to feel for Miller. After making an initial save, he received Bronx jeers from an unforgiving home crowd. With seconds remaining, he flubbed a pass allowing a hustling Ryane Clowe to score unassisted at 19:56. The sequence stunned everyone and left Miller expressionless.
Just like that, our team had a three-goal lead entering the second. If you’ve followed them closely, you know not to take it lightly. At any moment, they can implode. As Boston PD finally captured second bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev alive, Anton Stralman made it 4-0 at 1:13 of the second period. That finally chased Miller, who received a sarcastic farewell from the same fans who once loved him. It wasn’t long ago when he led the Sabres to consecutive Conference Finals. In a season of turmoil that cost Lindy Ruff his job and might finally be the end of GM Darcy Regier, Miller has come under criticism for his emotional rants. It wouldn’t be surprising if he winds up elsewhere this summer.
With Jhonas Enroth in, the Rangers showed no mercy. Richards scored his second when he tucked home a rebound of a John Moore shot, which Taylor Pyatt deflected. Pyatt had gone 25 games without a point until Friday. Since being moved up to Richards’ line with Mats Zuccarello, he’s registered an assist in each win. Maybe there was a method to John Tortorella’s madness. Leading by five, Rick Nash made it a touchdown when he one-timed a Derek Stepan cross ice feed for his second in two (19th). Even Steve Eminger hit the score sheet with a helper.
Before they got too comfortable, Buffalo came back with two goals in six seconds. Virtually impossible, right? Not tonight on what must’ve been a full moon. Following a Ryan McDonagh penalty, Cody Hodgson snapped Henrik Lundqvist’s shutout with his 15th. Ehrhoff and Tyler Ennis set it up. Six seconds later, Nathan Gerbe took advantage of a Mike Del Zotto turnover going top shelf to make it 6-2. Suddenly energized, the Sabres nearly cut it in half, invoking bad memories of Montreal. Thankfully, Lundqvist shut the door.
On the same shift, Captain Clutch came through. Ryan Callahan stripped the puck and broke in on Enroth beating him on a clean breakaway to restore order with the PAT (7-2). Stunningly, the score fest wasn’t done when Drew Stafford surprised Lundqvist with a backhand off a Marcus Foligno face-off win on Richards making it 7-3 less than two minutes later. The teams combined for seven goals in the period with the Rangers holding a 4-3 edge. They still led by four.
At least the third was better. It wasn’t without a couple of big saves from Lundqvist, who even in a game he allowed four still made a sick sliding stop. He’s amazing. His demeanor never changes. With Sam and Joe discussing the fact that Richards never had a hat trick, he finally obliged when his shot from the right circle eluded Enroth. Some hats were tossed and the man who wore the Broadway Hat 24 hours ago cracked a smile. In what’s been a challenging year, maybe he’s saving his best for last.
Buffalo rookie Mark Pysyk closed the scoring when he snapped his first by Lundqvist for a power play goal with 40 ticks left. The end result of a mindless Arron Asham penalty. Somehow, Asham managed to standout for the wrong reason. He took two undisciplined penalties and had a giveaway. He’s really struggled since Brian Boyle went out of the lineup. Maybe he should stop taking to Twitter and battling nemesis Scotty Hockey and start playing.
At least the Rangers got an important win. They made up their game on Winnipeg gaining two points to pull into sole possession of eighth with 50 points. They trail the seventh Islanders by one and sixth Ottawa by two. The Isles and Rangers each have four left while the Sens have five, including a make up game at Boston. The Bruins will play the Pens tomorrow. So, there’s still no timetable when they’ll make up their game against Ottawa.
NY Puck 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (assist, +3 in 25:49-outstanding)
2nd Star-Ryane Clowe, NYR (goal, assist, +3 in 15:20-always hustles)
1st Star-Brad Richards, NYR (1st career hat trick-8, 9, 10)