Miller’s OT goal lifts Rangers past Sabres in Winter Classic
NEW YORK (AP) — J.T. Miller was in the perfect spot in front of the goal to take advantage of a rebound in overtime and keep the New York Rangers perfect in four regular season outdoor games.
Miller scored a power-play goal 2:43 into the extra period to lift the Rangers to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday in the NHL’s 10th Winter Classic at Citi Field.
The Rangers went on the power play 2:15 into overtime when Jacob Josefson was whistled for tripping Jimmy Vesey. On the winner, Kevin Shattenkirk fired a shot that rebounded right to Miller, who put it in.
“Fortunate to get a good shot to the net,” Miller said. “Not too often they come right on the stick like that.”
Paul Carey and Michael Grabner scored in the first period for the Rangers, who improved to a league-best 4-0 in outdoor games during the season. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 31 shots to help New York improve to 6-2-3 in its last 11 overall.
“We talked about going into this game there’s no way you’re going to look back at this as a great memory if you don’t win,” said Lundqvist, who is 4-0-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average outdoors. “Now we got a big win and we can always look back at this game as a great experience.”
Rasmus Ristolainen had a goal and an assist, Sam Reinhart also scored and Kyle Okposo had two assists for the Sabres. Robin Lehner finished with 39 saves for Buffalo, which has just 10 wins this season but is 4-3-5 in its last 12 games.
“The first 10 minutes were not very good, we were kind of dipping our toe in,” Okposo said. “Once we calmed down and played our game, we played well. So I’m proud of the guys, proud of the way we played.”
The game, played at the home of baseball’s New York Mets, was on the 10th anniversary of the Sabres’ 2-1 shootout loss to Pittsburgh in Buffalo in the first Winter Classic. This was also the league’s 24th regular season outdoor game.
Lundqvist made a sensational save on an attempt by Zemgus Girgensons with 2:12 remaining to keep the score tied.
“It was a fun game to play,” Lundqvist said. “Overall, I thought we were the better team, but we took a lot of penalties that put us on our heels a little bit.”
The national anthem was performed by the Every Voice Choirs, a New York City-based group of children born in 2008, the year of the first Winter Classic. The Goo Goo Dolls, a rock band that started in the Buffalo area, performed during the first intermission.
Despite the official temperature at puck drop at 20.5 degrees, the game drew a sellout crowd of 41,821.
“It was loud, the crowd was behind both teams,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. “It was great for us to find a way to come through in overtime.”
There was a shadow across about half the ice lengthwise at the start of the game. By the middle of the opening period, the shadow was at least partially covering about two-thirds of the ice, with the team benches in sun along the outfield edge and facing where home plate usually sits. The playing surface was completely in the shade at the start of the second period, except for the side boards to Lehner’s right on the first base side of the field.
The Sabres trailed 2-0 after one period before Reinhart cut the deficit in half 56 seconds into the second period on a rebound of Ristolainen’s shot.
Shortly before that, Lehner made a stellar stop on a short-handed breakaway by Grabner that would’ve given the Rangers a three-goal lead.
The Sabres tied it 27 seconds into the third as Ristolainen fired a wrist shot off a pass from Ryan O’Reilly.
“We got the momentum back,” Lehner said. “We start working hard, they start taking penalties. We got back to the game. Unfortunately we got a penalty there (in overtime).”
New York got on the scoreboard at 4:09 of the first as Carey got a pass from Jesper Fast and fired it past Lehner from straightaway.
Grabner made it 2-0 at 8:20. Marc Staal sent the puck of Lehner’s back as he spun around and skated past the left side of the goal, and it came to Grabner at the right side and he put it in for his 18th of the season.
NOTES: Lundqvist also got his 423rd career victory, tying Tony Esposito for eighth place all-time on the NHL’s career list. ... Lundqvist, McDonagh and Staal have played in each of the Rangers’ four regular season outdoor games. ... Buffalo LW Benoit Pouliot played in his fifth outdoor game, tying Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brad Richards, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews for the most. Pouliot previously appeared in two Heritage Classic games — for Montreal on Feb. 20, 2011, and Edmonton on Oct. 23, 2016 — and the Rangers’ Stadium Series games in Jan. 2014. ... The Sabres gave up a home game to be in this one since the Rangers are contractually obligated to play all their home games at Madison Square Garden for a tax exemption. ... Rangers coach Alain Vigneault earned his 635th win, breaking a tie with Darryl Sutter for sole possession of 11th place on the NHL’s all-time list.
Rangers: Host Chicago on Wednesday night
Sabres: At Minnesota on Thursday night in the fifth game of a stretch of seven straight away from Buffalo.
Follow Vin Cherwoo at www.twitter.com/VinCherwooAP
More AP NHL: www.apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey