THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Rick Nash had a goal and assist, and Mackenzie Skapski stopped 24 shots in his NHL debut in the New York Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
Carl Hagelin, on a breakaway, and Mats Zuccarello also scored for New York. The Rangers improved to 8-1-2 in their past 11, defeated Buffalo for the sixth straight time, and extended their road winning streak to a season-best five straight.
Skapski gave up a goal on the first shot he faced 14 seconds in, when Matt Moulson converted Torrey Mitchell’s pass into the slot off a faceoff to the right of the New York net. Skapski got the nod in place of Cam Talbot, who has gone 5-1-2 in eight starts since Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined by a neck injury.
Buffalo, coming off a 3-2 shootout win at Philadelphia on Thursday, dropped to 1-4-1 in its past six.
The Sabres didn’t muster many chances after the opening minute in a game they were outshot 31-12 through two periods and 43-25 overall. Buffalo, which has produced a league-low 102 goals has failed to score three or more in regulation in 19 of its past 23 games.
Hagelin tied the score 5:51 in when he was sent in alone by J.T. Miller’s long flip pass from deep in the Rangers’ zone. Hagelin skated in alone and sneaked a shot through Michal Neuvirth’s legs. Offsides wasn’t called despite a replay showing Hagelin crossing Buffalo’s blue line a step ahead of the puck.
There was no debating the Rangers’ two second-period goals.
Nash scored his 37th of the season by one-timing in Derick Brassard’s hard cross-ice pass from the left wing during a 3-on-2 break 37 seconds into the period.
Nash then set up Zuccarello’s goal some 7 minutes later. Streaking up the right wing, Nash blew past defender Andre Benoit and cut across the front of the net while drawing Neuvirth with him. Nash’s shot hit the post and the puck caromed back into the slot where Zuccarello snapped it in the unguarded net.
Nash is now three goals short of matching a career high, and has 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in his past 11 games.
Skapski was New York’s sixth-round draft pick, and had gone 12-7-3 at AHL Hartford before being called up on Feb. 4.
His best save came during a Sabres power play early in the third period when Chris Stewart’s shot from the high slot changed direction twice and trickled past the goalie. Skapski, however, reached back to glove the puck before it could cross the goal line.
He started because the Rangers were playing on consecutive nights, and after Talbot had struggled in allowing nine goals in his past two games, including a 5-4 shootout loss to Vancouver on Thursday night,.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault got his 502nd career win to move into 18th place on the NHL list, one ahead of Pat Quinn.
Sabres defenceman Mike Weber did not return after the first period.
NOTES: Sabres LW Evander Kane attended his first game in Buffalo since being acquired in a trade with Winnipeg last week. Kane is recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery he had shortly before the trade. … Brassard had two assists to set a career-best six-game points streak, during which he has eight assists. … Sabres D Josh Gorges is expected to miss the remainder of the season after a second evaluation of a lower-body injury confirmed the initial diagnosis last week. … The game was originally scheduled for Nov. 21 but postponed due to a snowstorm that paralyzed much of the Buffalo region.