Alex Tuch scores 2 as Sabres beat Rangers

Alex Tuch scores 2 as Sabres beat Rangers

By Allan Kreda

Alex Tuch scored twice and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 25 shots as the Buffalo Sabres beat the first-place New York Rangers 5-1 on Monday night.

Casey Mittelstadt had a goal and two assists, J.J. Peterka and Kyle Okposo also scored and Owen Power added two assists as the Sabres bounced back from a 7-2 loss at New Jersey two nights earlier.

“We wanted to bring more intensity and play the way we wanted to play,″ Peterka said. ”We knew we had to take more steps together. We had a good game.”

Mika Zibanejad scored for New York, which was 13-1-1 in its previous 15 games. The Rangers, coming off a 7-4 win against Boston on Saturday, hadn’t lost at home since Oct. 19 against Nashville. Igor Shesterkin finished with 34 saves.

“That’s on us tonight,″ Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t play the way that we needed to play in order to be successful.”

Peterka opened the scoring with his ninth goal of the season with 8:19 left in the first period. It gave Peterka goals in four straight games against the Rangers — becoming the first Sabres player since Gilbert Perreault (Nov. 9, 1977 to Feb. 9, 1978) to do so. The German forward also has 15 points (seven goals and eight assists) in his last 14 games overall.

Tuch made it 2-0 at with 27 seconds left in the second. Mittelstadt had an assist on the play, extending his streak to a career-high five games.

The 24-year-old Luukkonen, a second-round pick by the Sabres in 2017, improved to 6-3-1 this season. The 6-foot-5 Finnish netminder made a dazzling stick save on Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey early in the third to preserve the lead.

He also stopped a long shot from Rangers defenseman Zac Jones, then denied Vincent Trocheck from in front just over seven minutes into second. Luukkonen then swatted away another rising shot by Jones at 13:36 of the second.

“Everyone played with a chip on their shoulder,” Luukkonen said. ”That was a good comeback after the game in Jersey. We started well and kept it going all game.”

Zibanejad finally solved Luukkonen on the power-play at 8:08 of the third for his fifth.

“We didn’t have our best start,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said “We kept trying to fight to get momentum We could never really establish it. We have to just keep playing our game. You’re not going to win 82 games.”

Tuch then scored again with 4:29 left, whipping a high shot past Shesterkin for his eighth. Tuch has 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in his last 13 games.

“We rolled shift after shift,” Tuch said. ”We did that from the drop of the puck. We have to take that into the next game.”

Mittelstadt added an empty-net goal with 1:31 remaining before Okposo scored his third at with 7 seconds to go.

“We were dialed in tonight,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I like how our guys responded after the last game. You have to be willing to grind. And the confidence was there.”

The Rangers entered the game with a 14-game point streak against the Sabres (11-0-3).

Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko was injured at the 15:13 mark of the second.

The 22-year-old Finnish forward, the second overall pick in the 2019 draft, fell awkwardly along the boards behind the Sabres net, twisting his left knee at an unnatural angle. Kakko had to be helped to the Rangers dressing room, unable to put any weight on his left leg.

“He’s being evaluated, we should know more tomorrow,” Laviolette said.


Sabres: At St. Louis on Thursday night.

Rangers: Host Detroit on Wednesday night.

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