The Rangers may very well have had their season on the line last night in Buffalo, and it appeared with 20
seconds left in regulation that they had done all they needed to do to secure the first road victory of this Eastern Conference Semifinal.
But with the game all but secure the Rangers faltered, and committed a series of errors that culminated in Chris Drury's game tying goal with
just 7.7 seconds remaining. You could certainly question Tom Renney's decision to send out an ailing Michael Nylander along with Jaromir
Jagr in the dying second. You could also ask yourself whether Fedor Tyutin made the biggest mistake of his young career by icing the puck
in the dying seconds of the game. Michael Nylander's inability to win the faceoff, the Rangers getting caught with two players (Nylander
and Dan Girardi) out of position when Lundqvist made the initial save, were yet more mistakes that ultimately culminated in a tied game.
But even then the Rangers had a chance to take the game. The Sabres' Chris Drury was called for a penalty
just twenty seven seconds into the first overtime period and the visitors had an opportunity to wipe out the bad feelings of the previous
minute. New York seldom threatened though on the power play, and finished 0 for 7 with the man advantage in the game. The mistakes
continued when Blair Betts perhaps unnecessarily hooked Maxim Afinogenov to set up what would ultimately be the Sabres winning goal.
Finally Jed Ortmeyer instinctive reached out to try and take an Afinogenov shot from the blueline and instead deflected the puck downwards
slightly, just enough to beat Henrik Lundqvist and send the Rangers back to their lockerroom in need of some serious psychoanalysis.
To say the loss was stunning is an understatement. The way the Rangers lost last night may very well be
devastating to a team that has been playing on the edge for the last three months and now must come home to New York in an attempt to keep the
season alive. It also has the double edge of granting the Sabres a new life just when it appeared that Henrik Lundqvist had stolen
Buffalo's will to live.
The series is of course not over, and if the Rangers can regroup tomorrow on home ice (where they've won nine
straight games) then they could very well set up for an inspiring Game 7 which could go either way between these two teams. And as the
Rangers have shown this season, where there's life, there's still a chance of doing some good things.
And while the Rangers do have the pressure back on them, they once again assume the role of underdogs, which has
seemingly helped them all season. This season has already been a success and with Tom Renney's calm demeanor behind the bench and the
friendly environs of MSG, the team has an opportunity to put last night's game behind them and force the deciding game. Despite several
injury scares during the game, the Rangers will head into Sunday with a full line-up and the knowledge that Henrik Lundqvist is playing his top
game. The penalty kill has taken away much of the Sabres' confidence on offense and even Ryan Miller is starting to look a little more
beatable (if the Rangers can find a way to get more shots on).
All analysis aside, it's a simple formula...win or go home.