BUFFALO, N.Y. – Henrik Lundqvist just needed a matchup with the NHL’s top goalie to get back on track.
Lundqvist outduelled Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, and the New York Rangers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Sabres on Saturday night.
Lundqvist made 36 saves – including 18 in the third period – to bounce back from his last two appearances in which he gave up eight goals in just over 4 1/2 periods.
“I know I have to play better than I’ve been playing the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I’ve been playing OK, but it’s not enough a lot of times.”
It was plenty against the Sabres and Miller, who came in leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.84) and save percentage (.936). Lundqvist was solid throughout, including an impressive stop on Jason Pominville while on his side with Buffalo on the power play in the third period.
He also denied Drew Stafford’s deke attempt with 11 minutes left in regulation, and got a pad on Mike Grier’s deflection with 90 seconds to go.
Pominville broke up Lundqvist’s shutout bid with a slap shot from the right circle with 58.1 seconds left after Miller was pulled for an extra attacker, but Lundqvist made two more saves after that to preserve the win.
“Give him credit, he played well,” Pominville said. “But we made it easy on him. He saw every shot, and stood up on most of them. We handed them their opportunities, while we had to work for ours.”
Lundqvist’s performance mirrored his team’s, as the Rangers tightened up defensively and in front of the net after surrendering 18 goals in their last three games.
“I don’t know if relief is the right word … I think more satisfied,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said. “There were a lot of things we did well, and we just played hard. That’s two big points for us because they have a heck of a team.”
Christopher Higgins scored for the first time in 11 games, and Ryan Callahan added the winning goal for the Rangers (14-13-1).
Miller made 30 saves for Buffalo (16-8-2), which had a four-game winning streak broken. The Sabres scored 18 goals during their run.
“The Rangers weren’t going to let us play inside,” Miller said. “They closed off (the middle). We adjusted in the third, but sometimes it’s a little late.”
Higgins opened the scoring with 2:29 left in the first period, netting his third goal of the season. After Sabres rookie defenceman Tyler Myers turned over the puck, Marian Gaborik sent a nifty pass to Higgins, who fired a wrist shot from the lower left circle that beat Miller high.
Callahan made it 2-0 with his fifth goal, scored with 6:16 to go. On a 2-on-1, Sean Avery’s shot from the left circle was blocked by Miller, but Callahan put the rebound into the net.
“We had a couple of days to practice to work on some things and refocus on some things we were getting away from,” Higgins said. “Coming out with a win makes for a nice flight home.”
NOTES: The Rangers host Detroit on Sunday, and will be home for four of the next five games. … Newly acquired C Erik Christensen played his first game for the Rangers after being claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Wednesday. … Sabres D Chris Butler missed the game because of an ankle injury sustained Thursday against Montreal. … Miller has started all but three of Buffalo’s 26 games. … Gaborik has points in 22 of his 25 games this season.