Sunday, December 13, 2009

Miller outshines Lundqvist

The game might have been on Broadway but it was Miller Time. Ryan Miller demonstrated why he's the early favorite for the Vezina and possibly Hart, backstopping the Sabres past the Rangers 3-2 Saturday night. In the latest Ranger loss, the expected Team USA starting netminder was the difference, outshining Henrik Lundqvist by making 36 saves including 24 the final two periods.

When the chips were down, Miller came up with the money stops, protecting a one-goal lead Buffalo took on Patrick Kaleta's second goal of the night. A shorthanded tally in which he beat Lundqvist clean, picking high glove after our goalie dropped to his knees exposing the area. That it was Kaleta's first career shorty and also multi-goal game was just all too familiar for a team that always does this to their fans. Even sadder was that on both Kaleta tallies, the cheapshot artist celebrated by dancing around and banging the glass in our own barn. How not one Ranger had the gall to put this disgrace through the glass was embarrassing. On what was a nice night spent with my Mom celebrating a birthday, I had to watch that guy dance like a Rockette, owning the place.

Unlike the last game in which they somehow got a point in Chicago but were trashed by John Tortorella and even Mike Keenan, the Rangers at least showed up. After spotting Buffalo an early goal scored by Derek Roy, they answered with two straight, taking advantage of a loss of discipline from their opponent. Yes. Our power play converted twice within a 1:55 span. First, Marian Gaborik setup a wide open Ryan Callahan in front for his sixth, tying it. Even Ales Kotalik got a point. Too bad his key gaffe would lead to the decider later. Anyway, the Blueshirts were on another man-advantage. This time, the Great Gabby connected for his first in four games. Taking a pass from rookie Mike Del Zotto, Gaborik faked pass before firing a laser past Miller into the top half of the net for his league-leading 22nd.

The Big Ticket obviously is on a different planet than the rest of his teammates. Despite no real talent around even though Vinny Prospal earned a secondary helper and Del Zotto again showed why he has All-Star potential, the ex-Wild superstar has been unreal. Through 29 games, he now is 22-19-41 with 10 PPG and a plus-seven rating on what's become a miserable Ranger team. We can only imagine if he had real players to play with. That he's stayed healthy missing only two games due to a knee has been the only blessing for Garden Faithful this holiday season. If there's any solace, at least Slats got it right with Gaborik. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed he remains on the ice for the duration of the five years he signed for. I kinda feel for the guy because he deserves better.

Back to the game. Before I could get comfortable chowing down on a great homemade salad, cutlets and even a couple of mini potato latke for the second night of Chanukah, there was Kaleta rebounding home a Jochen Hecht shot to knot the contest 2:11 later. It was one that Lundqvist should've had but instead, let out a bad rebound and flopped to the ice making it a gimme for the glorified third liner. Midway thru, the same annoying pest struck again when Kotalik couldn't keep a puck in, making about as pathetic an attempt as possible. On the pivotal play, Del Zotto was caught deep, meaning that Ales had to be firmer. Instead, he swung his purse allowing a former teammate to cruise in from his own blueline and beat Lundqvist at 9:30. Henrik Tallinder added the lone assist.

Down by one, the Rangers didn't go away, continuing to trade chances with Buffalo, who eventually sat back in a defensive shell for the final 20. So, it wasn't all too startling that they outshot the Sabres 24-19 (10-7 in 3rd) over the last two stanzas. Trouble was the Sabres had the better No.30, who repelled everything the Rangers threw his way. Sure. The effort was there featuring a great shift by invisible captain Chris Drury along with Sean Avery and Callahan in which the trio buzzed but never took a shot. In order to score, you have to Shoot The Puck. Somewhere up above, you know The Big Whistle was screaming his trademark at the top of his lungs.

Unfortunately, despite some good chances, the Rangers never generated enough to beat Miller, who also used his glove to shut it down when the situation presented itself. Lundqvist was pulled with over a minute left but it didn't matter. The Sabres did enough. So did their goalie, concluding another good week for our Sabre contingent.

BONY 3 Stars:

3rd Star-Marian Gaborik, NYR (league leading 22nd/assist, 4 SOG, 2 hits, takeaway in 24:05)
2nd Star-Patrick Kaleta, Buf (2 goals incl. 1st career SHG/2-goal performance, 2 SOG, 4 hits, blocked shot, +2 in 16:39)
1st Star-Ryan Miller, Buf (36 saves incl.24/24 last 2 periods)

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