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5 Observations: Rangers play spoiler, top Sabres 3-2 in OT at Winter Classic

5 Observations: Rangers play spoiler, top Sabres 3-2 in OT at Winter Classic
Posted at 4:58 PM, Jan 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-01 16:58:45-05

With a national audience watching the Buffalo Sabres had a chance to start 2018 with a win. Instead, they fell short in overtime yet again, falling to the New York Rangers 3-2. Despite the loss, the Sabres have now earned at least one point in nine of their last 12 games. 

Five observations from Monday's game: 

So close, yet so far

For the eighth time this season, the Sabres lost in overtime, this time in arguably their biggest game of the year. While the eight losses are startling, what should be more concerning is that they've only won twice in extra time. 

But stage aside, the Sabres shouldn't let this game eat away at them. They fell behind early 2-0 but battled back, playing a solid 40 minutes. Frustration from fans and players should be expected but as Sean McDermott has always said, it's a process. As of late the Sabres are playing a lot better and are competitive in almost every game. On this road trip the Sabres took home four of a possible six points. For this team, you'll take that almost every time. 

Could've been better, could've been worse 
Apparently taking things outside helped the Sabres lackluster power play [sort of], who finally scored on their third attempt in the second period. After some signs of life in the last few games, the unit took advantage of their third chance as Sam Reinhart scored his sixth of the season. Despite failing to convert on either of their first man advantages, they showed some nice puck movement early but as they say, couldn't put the biscuit in the basket. 

All season the problem with the power play has started outside of the offensive zone with sloppy zone entries. It seems like the Sabres do the same thing every time, dropping a pass backward to a streaking Jack Eichel, who attempts to take the puck end to end into the opponents zone. Sometimes it works, but more often than not the Sabres repeat the same thing over and over until they can finally sustain a cycle. By that point, usually the power play is halfway done and the second unit is coming onto the ice. 

All Hail King Henrik 

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has never lost an outdoor game, improving to 4-0 in his career. Once again King Henrik was incredible, turning away almost everything, bailing his team out of four of their five penalties.

Lundqvist looked composed all game, almost in his element in the frigid New York cold. If another goaltender was between the pipes there's a good chance the Sabres would've won this game.

When meeting with reporters after the game Lundqvist said he believed his team was better at five-on-five but the Sabres power play gave them some momentum. 

Not to be outdone

Robin Lehner was phenomenal after allowing two goals less than nine minutes into the game. I wouldn't blame Lehner for either goal, especially the Rangers first. Buffalo was pinned in their own end for a while and eventually, it cost them. It wasn't a matter of if the Rangers would score, but when. 

Lehner takes a lot of heat on social media and often is berated with criticism. That happened again on Monday after the Sabres fell behind 2-0, but once again, he was their best player and named the second star of the game. 

For my money, Lundqvist and Lehner were the two best players on the ice at Citi Field.

Back to back

Oh man. Oh man. Not again.

Rasmus Ristolainen joked after his goal against the New Jersey Devils on Friday that he was hoping to score his first of goal of the season in the Winter Classic. He'll have to settle for his second. 

In the third period, Ristolainen fired a wrist-shot from the point, beating Lundqvist to tie things up at two. Production from defenseman has been almost non-existent this year but lately, the blueline is chipping in more and more.  After the loss, Ristolainen said bounces are finally going his way, something that wasn't happening earlier in the season.

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