The New York Rangers opened the 2010/11 season on the right foot with a 6-3 thrashing of the Buffalo Sabres tonight at HSBC Arena. But what was even more special than a convincing win in the season opener, was the performance of rookie Derek Stepan, who recorded a hat trick in his first NHL game. He also had multiple scoring chances on top of that, and ended up having the biggest night of his life, while becoming the first player in team history to record a hat trick in his first NHL game, and the first Ranger since 1955 to record one on opening night.
The game got off to a very quick pace. Neither team seemed rusty as there was end to end action early on. The first goal of the season would belong to Derek Stepan, who netted his first NHL goal off a crazy deflection that went off the skate of Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers and in. Girardi and Avery would get assists, and Avery was effective all night long; he would finish with two assists on the night.
Five minutes later, Brandon Dubinsky would also score on a great feed from Artem Anisimov from behind the net, to get the Rangers up 2-0. The first period would end with the Rangers up by a deuce.
The Sabres would get on the board almost midway through the second, on a far-away slapshot from Jordan Leopold. This was one Lundqvist should have had, as there was hardly any screen in front of him. But the Rangers would answer back with two more goals that period, both from Derek Stepan, to give him the hat trick (and prompting a kiss on the visor from Brandon Dubinsky during the intermission). The Rangers would further increase their lead early in the third on an Erik Christensen goal, with assists going to Gaborik and Frolov, giving him his first point as a Ranger.
Minutes later, Stepan would have a chance at a forth goal when he missed on a breakaway. Four minutes later, Leopold would score his second for the Sabres and Derek Roy would net one later in the third to cut the Rangers lead to 5-3.
With the Sabres on a powerplay late in the third and the goalie pulled, Brandon Dubinsky would ice it with his second of the game, giving the Rangers a season opening victory.
To nit-pick a little bit, Lundqvist was not very strong tonight and he should have had the first two goals he gave up, while the defense just standing around for the third goal did not help matters. The defense really needs to wake up and shake off the rust in time for their next game against the aggressive Islanders on Monday. Steve Eminger also had a horrible game, and took two penalties.
The Rangers offense definitely looks better than last season, even though it is only one game. The Rangers may get chances like they did tonight all season long, but if the defense plays like this consistently, they could be in trouble.
The Blueshirts next game is on Long Island on Monday afternoon. The injured Chris Drury is a slight possibility to play, though Friday seems to be a more realistic scenario.