NEW YORK, N.Y. – Brad Boyes is already clicking with one of his new Buffalo Sabres teammates. The rest are still a bit of a mystery.
Boyes scored a power-play goal in his Sabres debut off a pretty feed from Paul Gaustad as Buffalo made the tight Eastern Conference playoff race a bit more crowded with a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
Boyes, acquired from St. Louis over the weekend, gave Buffalo a 2-0 lead with seven minutes left in the second period by scoring his 13th goal.
He was the recipient of a perfect pass from Gaustad, who blocked a shot from the blue-line by teammate Andrej Sekera and deftly slid a blind pass between his legs and across the crease to Boyes at the left post for a slam shot.
Hardly the type of play one would expect from guys playing together for the first time.
“It was a great pass,” Boyes said. “We talked about it earlier that if something like that happens, he might do that so I was kind of looking for it.
“It was a lot easier on my part and a little tougher on the other guy’s.”
The ninth-place Sabres kicked off a franchise record-tying, seven-game road trip by moving within three points of the seventh-place Rangers. Buffalo has played three fewer games than New York, which has dropped the first two of a three-game homestand.
The Sabres are two points behind Carolina, which moved within one of the Rangers.
Buffalo and Carolina will meet Thursday, and Boyes is thrilled to be thrust in the middle of a playoff chase. He even fought off most of his anxiety in his debut.
“I wasn’t too bad,” he said. “Once I got out there I felt fairly comfortable.
“I was a little nervous when looking around and there are not as many familiar faces as normal.”
Ryan Miller made 29 saves, and defenceman Andrej Sekera had two assists for the Sabres, 7-3-2 in their last 12 games. Jochen Hecht added a goal in the third.
Tyler Myers put the Sabres in front 1-0 during a first-period power play. Last season’s NHL rookie of the year has 10 goals.
Erik Christensen brought the Rangers within 2-1 when he scored a power-play goal less than a minute after Boyes doubled the lead. But New York again missed having top-line forward Marian Gaborik (concussion), fellow forward Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder), and defenceman Marc Staal (knee), who have all sat out multiple games.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23 shots and didn’t need any help from rookie callup Cam Talbot, who subbed for backup Martin Biron. Biron is out indefinitely after breaking a collarbone in practice Monday.
Artem Anisimov again cut the Sabres’ lead down to a goal when he scored 1:20 after Hecht. New York is 4-9-1 in its last 14 games, including three straight home losses.
“It’s a bit of a missed opportunity,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said. “We had a chance to go seven up on them.
“Now it’s only three. We’ve got to stay out of the box and keep fighting, trying to find a way to score.”
Mats Zuccarello nearly tied it 3-3 with just over six minutes left when he nudged the puck between Miller’s pads, but not enough to get it over the line before the puck was swept away.
“I got enough of it to trap it, and as it squirted behind I just threw my glove back,” Miller said. “We held on tough.
“It was important not to give them anything. We didn’t want them getting back into it.”
Defenceman Mike Weber then bailed out Miller during a flurry in the final minute after the goalie got well out of position.
That added to the Rangers’ frustration.
“We battled back, we kept coming, we pinched,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We just couldn’t solve Miller to tie the game.”
Myers got the Sabres going in the sluggish first period when he fired a shot that got through Thomas Vanek’s screen in front and beat Lundqvist with 2:45 left. The goal was originally credited to Vanek, but was changed to the defenceman, who has four goals in 10 games.
Christensen fired a shot fromthe right circle at 13:45 that beat a screened Miller inside the right post. Bryan McCabe earned an assist, giving him his first point with the Rangers in two games since being acquired from Florida on Saturday.
Hecht steered a pass from Sekera in at 4:45 of the third after Sekera avoided a diving attempt by Rangers forward Vinny Prospal to knock the puck out of the zone.
“All I had to do was put my stick on the ice and deflect it in,” Hecht said. “It was an important goal for us.”
Notes: Sabres RW Patrick Kaleta played in his 200th NHL game. … Myers and the injured Jordan Leopold (11) are the first pair of Sabres defencemen to each score 10 goals in a season since 1989-90 when Phil Housley (21) and Doug Bodger (12) did it. Leopold missed his second game with an undisclosed upper body injury. … The teams combined for 27 shots in the second—16 by the Rangers—after a total of 14 in the first.