NEW YORK — Alexis Lafreniere scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, and the New York Rangers beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Mika Zibanejad and Brendan Smith also scored and Igor Shesterkin made 36 saves as New York improved to 9-2-0 in its last eleven home games. Ryan Strome added two assists.
Sam Reinhart scored and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 38 saves for Buffalo, which has lost three of four.
Midway through the third period, Strome’s aggressive forecheck created a turnover behind Buffalo’s net, which led to Lafreniere’s 10th goal of his rookie season. The sequence started after New York defenseman Ryan Lindgren aided Shesterkin to keep the game tied at 1.1.
Zibanejad doubled New York’s advantage with a power-play goal at 13:49. The Rangers hit two posts during a 5-on-3 advantage but eventually cashed in when Chris Kreider set up the Swedish center with a cross-ice backhand pass. It was Zibanejad’s 20th goal of the season — the fourth time he has reached that milestone with the Rangers and sixth overall.
The Rangers have won seven of nine and trail the Boston Bruins by four points for the final playoff spot in the East Division.
Reinhart made it 1-1 in the final seconds of the second period with a one-time blast from the slot on the power play. Reinhart is tied for the NHL lead with 14 goals on the road this season.
Buffalo’s alternate captain has five goals in the team’s previous three games and has recorded 14 points in the 15 games Buffalo has played in April.
Smith opened the scoring early in the second period with a powerful slap shot just inside the blue line. Dylan Cozens failed to clear the puck from the Sabres defensive zone and Smith hammered the loose puck past Luukkonen at 2:22.
Luukkonen made his NHL debut and recorded his first career victory with a 36-save performance against the Boston Bruins last week. The Sabres selected the 22-year-old goaltender in the second round of the 2017 draft.
Buffalo will miss the playoffs for a 10th straight season, tied for an NHL record. The Sabres’ shootout-era record of 18 games without a victory (0-15-3) from February 25 to March 29 ended any hope of reaching the postseason.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The Rangers have won nine of their last 11 home games (9-2-0)and have outscored opponents 54-25 over that span. New York has also earned at least one point in 11 of its last 13 home games (10-2-1).
PLAYING BY THE RULES
The Sabres entered the game as the least penalized team in the NHL but three third-period penalties pushed Buffalo above Chicago Blackhawks in that category.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
The Blueshirts are the only NHL team that has five players (Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome) who have recorded at least 44 points in 2020-21 (no other team has more than three). New York is also the only NHL team that has four players who have registered 17 or more goals this season.
The Rangers are in the midst of a 17-game stretch in which they solely play in the New York area. The stretch began April 6 and is scheduled to end May 6 when the Rangers travel to Boston.
Rangers: Visit the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Sabres: Visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.