NEW YORK -- In the heat of a tightly-contested playoff race, taking three out of four points from the top two teams in your conference would normally be considered a successful weekend. Patrick Kaleta didn’t look at it that way.
Kaleta was on the ice for Marian Gaborik’s game-tying goal and Ryan Callahan’s overtime winner, as the New York Rangers defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The loss denied Buffalo their attempt at matching their season-high four-game winning streak, but the overtime point gives them eight of a possible 10 points (3-0-2) in their last five games.
The overtime goal actually started as a scoring chance for the Sabres, but Andrej Sekera’s shot missed the net and slid around the boards. Callahan then grabbed the loose puck and played give and go with Ryan McDonagh in the neutral zone. After taking the return pass just inside the Sabres blueline, Callahan pulled a toe drag move on Kaleta before tucking a wrist shot underneath Ryan Miller’s arm for his third winning goal (regulation, overtime and shootout) of the season against the Sabres.
“We had Callahan, and he slipped free,” said Miller. “If he was aiming armpit then he’s the best hockey player ever. I thought he was going a little higher.”
While Gaborik and Callahan’s goals were definitely of the ‘goal scorer’ variety, an emotional Kaleta took responsibility for what he termed simply as “bad plays” on his part.
“I lost the game for the team, pretty much. I take blame,” Kaleta stated bluntly. “I know better. I take this loss and put it on my back. Our team battled pretty good out there. I lost it for us.”
LISTEN TO KALETA'S FULL POST-GAME AUDIO
Kaleta took no solace in Buffalo’s three-point weekend. He knows how much every point means right now, and didn’t want to take pride in coming up short of a crucial sweep.
“It doesn’t matter; we should’ve had four points. Every point is important, and I lost it for us.”
Head coach Lindy Ruff said there was more to the loss than Kaleta’s individual play, and was quick to defend the gritty winger.
“Patty’s done a great job for us. I thought he got just a crap call against him early in the game; I totally disagreed with that,” said Ruff. “I think the way he’s played against the top lines has allowed us to get back in the hunt. He’s worked hard, done a good job for us. He left everything on the ice.”
Both of Buffalo’s goals were scored by Drew Stafford. The two-goal outing was his first multi-goal night of the season, and first since April 2, 2011 against Washington. Stafford now has three goals in last four games, after scoring just two in his previous 12.
“I’ve been waiting a long time,” said Stafford, who had six multi-goal performances last season – including a league-high four hat tricks. “Obviously right now it’s more important that I’m just trying to contribute to wins. Individually, whatever it takes to help the team win, at this point, that’s what I’m trying to focus on.
“The whole time, when things aren’t going well for scoring, all you can focus on is trying to go to the net and keep shooting. Sooner or later it’s going to turn. But like I said, more importantly, I’m just trying to contribute to put some wins on the board for this team. Unfortunately tonight we didn’t get the two points.”
This was the first of five straight road games for the Sabres, and they’ll now head out west for the next four starting Wednesday in Anaheim.
Tonight’s game concluded Buffalo’s 17th of a league-high 21 sets of back-to-back games. They are 10-7-0 in the first game, and are now 5-7-5 in the second.
1-0: Ennis outhustled Staal for the puck in the corner, and fed Stafford in front for the one-timer for his 11th of the season (13:29) … Shots: NYR-14, BUF-6
1-1: Hagelin wraps around the net and his shot hits Miller's stick and goes between his legs. (7:38) … Shots: NYR-6, BUF-6
2-1: Vanek dumps it off to Stafford and he fires a wrist shot that Lundqvist can't handle for his second of the night. (:44, PP)… 2-2: Gaborik cuts in from the left side and roofs a backhand past Miller. (5:32)… Shots: NYR-6, BUF-8
3-2: Callahan slices in off the left wing and buries a shot underneath Miller’s arm for the game winner. (2:59)… Shots: NYR-2, BUF-0
SABRES NOTES: Stafford’s second goal of the game was Buffalo’s first road power play goal since January 21 at St. Louis … Ville Leino played in his 200th career game… Carl Hagelin’s second-period goal snapped Miller’s shutout streak against the Rangers at 92:38… Brad Boyes (upper body), Cody McCormick (upper body) and Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy) were Buffalo’s scratches… This was the second game Boyes has missed since being injured against the Islanders on Tuesday… McCormick has now missed six games since suffering his injury against Dallas on February 10.