BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)Disappointment turned to relief for Mika Zibanejad and the Rangers when a contended offside video ruling negated what would have been the Buffalo Sabres’ tying goal in the final minute of New York’s 2-1 win Friday night.
”I mean, relief, obviously. But we knew pretty early,” Zibanejad said, noting the Rangers bench was confident Victor Olofsson’s goal would be reversed because Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin was offside. ”When you get a second chance, then you just got to make sure that you stop the puck from going in again. And we got it done.”
But how the game ended didn’t ease questions as to whether the NHL made the correct ruling.
Officials confirmed Olofsson’s shot went in after caroming off defenseman Patrik Nemeth with 57 seconds remaining. The NHL then disallowed the goal by ruling Dahlin had crossed the blue line before Buffalo entered the zone.
One replay, however, showed Dahlin may have tagged up by touching the blue line just before Olofsson touched the puck in the Rangers’ zone.
Without disputing the ruling, Sabres coach Don Granato asked officials if they could further review whether Dahlin had tagged up. He was informed the NHL had made its decision.
At that point, Granato focused his attention on his players.
”I can’t have emotion in it. I can’t think about it,” Granato said. ”There’s certain things that are out of your control and you just play. You just trust that the league knows what they’re doing and you move on.”
Messages left with NHL officials were not returned. The league also did not post any explanation of its ruling on its Situation Room website.
Alexander Georgiev stopped 36 shots and the Rangers extended one of the best starts in team history.
Zibanejad got his first goal in 15 games and Alex Lafreniere also scored for the Rangers, who bounced back after having their seven-game winning streak snapped in a 7-3 loss to Colorado on Wednesday. Adam Fox assisted on both goals to take over the NHL points lead among defenseman with 29.
The Rangers improved to 18-5-3, matching the franchise mark for most wins through 26 games. That record was set by the 1994 Stanley Cup champion team, which opened 18-6-2.
Brett Murray scored with 5:23 remaining, and the Sabres extended their winless skid to 0-5-1. Minor-league callup Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen stopped 29 shots and has lost five straight since winning his NHL debut in April.
”Yeah, that stung. A lot of emotions when we tie the game there, and obviously the offsides,” Sabres forward Kyle Okposo said. ”I didn’t think we started the game very well. To gather momentum and start to play the way we wanted to, it would’ve been nice to get a result.”
Zibanejad was more concerned over the Rangers’ inability to play a full 60 minutes.
”I think it’s been the theme all season, really, to play more complete games,” he said. ”I think we’ve shown that to ourselves when we play our game, how good we can be and how effective we can be. And that’s our next step, that’s our next challenge.”
Zibanejad scored 4:48 into the first, giving the Rangers power-play goals in six straight and eight of nine.
New York went up 2-0 on Lafreniere’s goal midway through the second period. Fox set that up with a shot from the right circle, which Lukkonen flubbed off his blocker. The puck bounced to the goalie’s left, where Lafreniere swept into the open side.
Georgiev has won four in a row and improved to 5-1-1 this season. The Rangers goalie said he was already preparing for the game being tied before being surprised by the goal being disallowed.
”A little bit of luck. You need that,” Georgiev said. ”The other team was playing really good, and we managed to get the job done.”
Sabres: C Casey Mittelstadt had surgery to repair an upper-body injury he sustained Tuesday. He’s out indefinitely, and the latest injury comes after he was playing his third game after missing 21 with an upper-body injury. The Sabres placed Mittelstadt on injured reserve on Thursday. … G Malcolm Subban skated in the morning and could be in position to return after getting hurt in his Buffalo debut, a 6-2 loss at Carolina last weekend.
Rangers: G Igor Shesterkin took the ice for a stretching portion of practice on Friday. He missed his fourth game with a lower-body injury sustained in a 1-0 win over San Jose on Dec. 3.
Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.
Sabres: Complete three-game homestand against Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
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