BUFFALO, N.Y. – Carl Hagelin wasn’t necessarily brought up to the New York Rangers to be a goal-scorer, but he didn’t look out of place Saturday night.
Hagelin, a 23-year-old rookie playing in his eighth NHL game, scored twice to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, giving the franchise its 2,500th regular-season win.
His first goal, the first of New York’s two short-handed goals, opened the scoring with 8:26 left in the second period. His second, a slapshot from the left circle, put the Rangers up 3-1 early in the third.
While Hagelin was tied for the team lead with seven goals at Connecticut in the AHL when he was called up Nov. 24, the expectation was for him to provide speed and solid general play.
“For him to keep on getting his minutes is to play away from the puck,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “There were some stumbles, but it’s really encouraging that we have another young kid in our lineup who’s adding already, in just a few games.”
“I’m not here to score goals every game,” Hagelin added. “It’s a big bonus. I’m trying to make sure we’re not scored upon when I’m out there.”
Ryan Callahan scored the Rangers’ other short-handed goal and Martin Biron made 32 saves to help the Rangers become the fifth NHL team to reach the milestone.
Marian Gaborik added a power-play goal for New York. Biron, who played 300 games for Buffalo earlier in his career, improved to 9-3-1 against the Sabres.
“It’s a lot of fun to play here,” Biron said. “There’s always a lot of energy and always a high-tempo game. And you want to play well against old teammates.”
Thomas Vanek scored for Buffalo, which is 2-5-2 in its last nine home games. Jhonas Enroth stopped 29 shots in his sixth loss in seven decisions (1-5-1).
“Scoring one goal is not good enough,” Vanek said. “On special teams, you don’t have to score, you just want to create some positive momentum and today it cost us the game.”
Vanek’s goal, scored 1:04 after Hagelin’s first, came when his slap shot from the high slot trickled past Biron.
But it was Callahan’s goal which proved to be especially disheartening for Buffalo. In breaking a 1-1 tie with 1:09 left in the second period, Callahan drove alone to the net after grabbing an errant pass by Christian Ehrhoff at the Rangers’ blue-line. The New York captain was covered by Ehrhoff, but still pushed a low shot behind Enroth.
“I played the 1-on-1 like I wanted to play it,” Ehrhoff said. “He did a great job, got his butt out and protected the puck and put a spinner on net that went through. You can’t win in this league if you give up two goals on your power play.”
Hagelin’s second goal came after receiving a long lead pass from Michael Del Zotto at the blue-line. Del Zotto received a shorter pass from Biron to begin the sequence.
“Sometimes you make better plays and it doesn’t result in a goal,” Biron said. “(Hagelin) said he doesn’t feel it’s his shot. But it was good for him and it’s been great for us.”
Gaborik scored his 14th on a slapshot from the high slot with 2:34 remaining.
Enroth started the season with six straight wins and seven victories in his first eight decisions. He felt his recent struggles are a normal part of the game.
“The last couple of games have been a little worse than the beginning of the year,” Enroth acknowledged. “Hockey goes up and down, just like normal life. So it’s nothing I’m walking around and thinking about. I always trust myself and trust my skills.”
The Rangers, 13-3-1 in their last 17 games, snapped a two-game losing skid, and will return home to face Florida Sunday night.
Buffalo had four injured players scratched in addition to four others who are on the injured reserve list.
“We said in our meeting our plays had to be quick,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought we were about a half a second slow with it.”
NOTES: Colin Stuart made his season debut for the Sabres, and Ville Leino returned from a one-game suspension. They replaced Corey Tropp and Jochen Hecht, both injured Friday night in an overtime win over Florida. … The Rangers last scored two short-handed goals Jan. 20, 2009, against Anaheim, while Buffalo allowed two short-handed goals on Oct. 14 against Carolina. The Sabres have allowed five short-handed goals this season, all at home. … Chicago, with 2,432 victories, is the only “Original Six” club yet to win 2,500.