Lundqvist helps Rangers rise above .500

Mark Ludwiczak, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Now that Henrik Lundqvist's long-term future is secure, the New York Rangers goaltender hopes he can enjoy his new contract with more victories.
He did his part Thursday night, making 27 saves to lead the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
"It was weird because it was such a big day yesterday, an emotional day for me and obviously it's a proud moment for me to realize they're willing to commit to me and I want to commit to them," said Lundqvist, who signed a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension on Wednesday. "But at the same time, I just couldn't be super happy because you want more wins. That's what really matters.
"You want to turn things around here and get going, and when you do that I think you can enjoy the fact that what happened yesterday. ... So keep this going and I'm going to really enjoy it."
Left winger Rick Nash, center Brad Richards and left winger Mats Zuccarello scored for New York, which moved above .500 with a record of 15-14.
Center Tyler Ennis scored the lone goal for Buffalo (6-21-2). Goalie Ryan Miller had 28 saves.
Lundqvist made sure that his team bounced back from a 5-2 loss to Winnipeg on Monday. The goaltender stopped two partial breakaways and did his best impersonation of former Buffalo great Dominik Hasek with an acrobatic stop late in the third period on a deflection.
"He made some really big saves," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's an elite goaltender that comes up big at the right time and certainly helped us win tonight."
Nash opened the scoring with a spectacular goal late in the first period.
The Rangers quickly broke out of their zone with a long pass from defenseman Ryan McDonagh, which was tipped by center Derek Stepan at center ice to Nash. Nash received the puck along the left wall and raced past Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers before beating Miller with a pretty deke to his forehand. It was Nash's fifth goal of the year.
"It was a real strong play," Vigneault said. "It was a good pass by Stepan, who tipped the puck forward and a breakaway by Rick Nash."
Buffalo's best opportunity to tie the score came with just under 13 minutes remaining when center Cody Hodgson stripped McDonagh of the puck and went in on a partial breakaway. Lundqvist stopped Hodgson's backhand attempt with his right pad, and Hodgson tripped Nash seconds later for a New York power play, leading to the Rangers' second goal.
Brad Richards gave New York a 2-0 lead 8:29 into the third period on the ensuing power play with his wrist shot from the right circle.
"That's a perfect scenario for a goalie when you stop a breakaway and then we score on the power play," Lundqvist said. "Of course, it's a different game if they tie it up. I think for a goalie you just have to be there when mistakes happen. It's gonna happen and I felt like they were taking more chances in the third to kind of get going. So I knew I had to be ready, but it felt really good."
Vigneault said, "We got a huge save from (Lundqvist) when the score was 1-0 and they take a penalty right after. Our power play steps on the ice and gives us a 2-0 lead. Pressure moments in the game where our big players made some big plays."
Buffalo had another partial breakaway by captain Steve Ott moments later, but Lundqvist stayed with Ott and stopped his wrist shot.
Lundqvist's most impressive save was an acrobatic stop with less than eight minutes remaining. Ott's wrist shot was redirected toward the net by Richards, and the Rangers goalie made a highlight-reel stop with his right arm to deflect the puck over the net before going to the ice.
Zuccarello gave the Rangers a three-goal cushion with his fifth goal of the season with 5:13 remaining.
Ennis ended Lundqvist's shutout with 2:06 remaining on his fifth goal of the year.
The Sabres displayed more energy and fight as the game progressed but were unable to tie the score when it was close.
"Same problems," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "Another day where we've got to search for the answers. There's no one (that's going to) ride in here and fix it for us. We have to fix it ourselves. We have to look in the mirror and what we can do to correct this thing and make it better."
Earlier in the game, the Sabres passed up several goal-scoring opportunities while looking for the perfect pass.
"I think tonight it was a little bit of trying to be too fancy with it instead of getting pucks to the net," Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said.
NOTES: The Sabres announced that C Mikhail Grigorenko would be loaned to the Russian men's national junior team to compete in the 2014 World Junior Championship. Grigorenko will join Sabres D Nikita Zadorov -- who returned to his junior team, the London Knights, in late November -- on the Russian squad. ... Grigorenko, D Brayden McNabb and C Brian Flynn were scratched for the Sabres. McNabb was recalled from AHL Rochester prior to the game. ... The Rangers scratched RW Derek Dorsett and D Justin Falk. ... The teams met for the second of three times this season. New York won 2-0 at Madison Square Garden on Halloween.

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