BUFFALO - Mackenzie Skapski was born June 15, 1994, the day Rangers captain Mark Messier raised the Stanley Cup.
Friday night at First Niagara Center, the 20-year-old backup goaltender created some Rangers memories of his own.
Chosen by coach Alain Vigneault to make his NHL debut, the 6-3 Skapski gave up a goal on the very first shot he faced when a turnover led to Matt Moulson's goal 14 seconds into the game.
But the Rangers pulled together to smother the disjointed Sabres for the remainder of the evening, and Skapski didn't allow any of Buffalo's subsequent 24 shots to get behind him in a 3-1 victory.
"It's my dad's birthday today and couldn't have scripted it better," Skapski said. "I think I was fighting pucks in the first period, and the second and third I was pretty calm, cool and collected."
Vigneault was pleased. "Very happy for him," he said. "You always want to remember your first NHL game. He's going to remember the first shot and the first goal, but then he shut them down.
"He had some work in the third period, he didn't have a lot in the first and second. I'm sure his heart was pumping a little more than usual."
Carl Hagelin finished a breakaway at 5:51 of the first period to tie the game, and two goals in the second period -- Rick Nash's 37th on a one-timer from the right side at the 37-second mark and Mats Zuccarello's rebound of a Nash shot -- was all that Skapski needed. Well, that and the Rangers defense, which didn't allow the Sabres much.
The Blueshirts got 43 shots on the Sabres' Michael Neuvirth.
To be fair, the Sabres, 17-38-4 and ready to dump players at the March 2 trade deadline to line up for a top pick in the June draft, didn't sustain much of an attack.
Skapski, an Abbotsford, Britsh Columbia, native selected in the sixth round, 170th overall in the 2013 draft, was told of the decision Thursday night. Cam Talbot had started eight consecutive games filling in for the injured Henrik Lundqvist and allowed nine goals in the previous two games. Talbot is expected to be back in the net Sunday when the Rangers (35-16-6) host the Blue Jackets.
"We've played a lot of hockey lately and we're playing back-to-back," Vigneault said, referring to the Thursday night loss to the Canucks. He said he talked to Benoit Allaire, the goaltending coach, and assistant general managers Jim Schoenfeld and Jeff Gorton, who Vigneault said "know [Skapski] well. He's played well in Hartford. We just felt it was the right thing to do."
The first player in franchise history to wear No. 70, Skapski was as wide-eyed as any rookie when he was called up from the AHL on Feb. 4.
"There wasn't a specific plan [on when to use Skapski]," Vigneault said. "We've been on a game-to-game basis, lately we've been discussing his work with Ben in practice. They all feel the young man is ready for the opportunity."
And he was.