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Buchnevich scores go-ahead goal, Rangers hold off Sabres 4-3
By ALLAN KREDA
NEW YORK (AP) The Rangers have been waiting all season for Rick Nash to score in bunches. A fresh line combination may be doing the trick.
Nash scored twice for the second straight game and new linemate Pavel Buchnevich scored the winner late in the third period as the Rangers edged the conference-worst Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Thursday night.
Buchnevich scored the go-ahead goal at 16:02 after the Sabres had tied the game for the third time on a power-play goal by defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen at 14:59 of the third. Nash, who opened the scoring early in the first and put the Rangers ahead 3-2 at 6:49 of the third, has 13 goals this season. He also scored twice in a 5-1 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday.
"Sometimes you get five or six opportunities a night and don't score. Other times, you get two chances and put them both in," Nash said. "You've got to stay level-headed and stay with it."
Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves for the Rangers, who won their second straight after three consecutive losses.
"In the end, we had some guys playing big minutes come up with big goals," said Lundqvist, referring to the new combination of Nash with Buchnevich and center Mika Zibanejad. "They move the puck really well and their timing is there right now."
Buchnevich's goal was his 12th of the season. He also had assists on both goals by Nash.
"It's important if your line scores," the soft-spoken Buchnevich said. "You feel better."
The Rangers (24-17-5) have won 11 of their last 14 games against Buffalo, which fell to an Eastern Conference-worst 11-25-9. The Rangers currently hold one of two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sabres continue to struggle with only one win in seven games this month.
"It's really disappointing because our power-play was sharp," Sabres coach Phil Housley said. "We were anxious and eager to do something big. It's just unfortunate because all of our work goes for nothing."
Buffalo defenseman Justin Falk had tied it with his first goal of the season when his long slot eluded Lundqvist at 17:10 of the second.
Falk's shot from the point slid through just as Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei and Sabres forward Sam Reinhart skated in front of Lundqvist and seemed to hamper his view. Falk's previous goal came 100 games ago in March 2015, when he was playing for Columbus.
J.T. Miller, who scored the overtime winner when the Rangers beat the Sabres 3-2 in the Winter Classic at Citi Field on Jan. 1, scored midway through the second to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. Miller's 10th goal came on the power-play at 8:26 of the second when he rifled the puck past Lehner. David Desharnais assisted.
Lundqvist has dominated the Sabres in recent seasons with an 8-2-0 record since Oct. 31, 2013. He improved to 21-11-4 on the season.
"We said we needed this one. When we play on top of our game, we're a really good team," Lundqvist added. "I like the combinations right now. The lines are working hard and making smart plays."
Nash opened the scoring at 1:24 of the first on a breakaway, beating Lehner high to the glove side. Nash has points in nine of last 14 games against the Sabres with 11 goals and five assists overall. Nash hadn't scored in 12 games before his two-goal against the Flyers on Tuesday.
The 33-year-old right wing, who has 429 career goals, could become an unrestricted free agent in July after his current eight-year contract expires. He has been with the Rangers since July 2012 when he was acquired from Columbus.
Sabres forward Kyle Okposo knotted the score at 1 with his eighth goal at 18:41 of the first. He slid a rebound past Lundqvist, with assists to Reinhart and Jack Eichel, who has 19 points in his last 13 games.
Only 13 of the Rangers' 36 remaining games are at home. They are 17-8-3 at home, but just 7-9-2 away from Madison Square Garden. They start a four-game trip at Colorado on Saturday followed by contests at Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose before the All-Star break.
"We have a tough road trip ahead," Lundqvist said. "We look forward to that test."
NOTES: Four of the last five meetings between the Rangers and Sabres have been decided by one goal. ... The Rangers have won 15 of last 26 games against the Sabres with a 15-8-3 mark overall. ... The teams meet again on March 24 at Madison Square Garden. ... The Rangers were without defenseman Marc Staal because of a hip flexor. They were also without injured forward Kevin Hayes for the third straight game. ... The Sabres scratched defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Victor Antipin.
Sabres: Host Dallas on Saturday.
Rangers: At Colorado on Saturday.
More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Updated January 19, 2018