Rangers lose Kaapo Kakko, blown out by upstart Sabres, 5-1

Rangers recent run sets them up nicely for Metro division lead
New York Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) skates with the puck against Nashville Predators center Tommy Novak (82) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 19, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
AP Photos

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.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, center, makes a save against New York Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere, right, during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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.

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.

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.

It was only the fifth time in 20 games this season that the Rangers allowed the game’s opening goal.

Tuch made it 2-0 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 the second. Luukkonen then swatted away another rising shot by Jones at 13:36 of the second.

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

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.

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

The Rangers entered the game with a 14-game point streak against the Sabres (11-0-3) and were 14-2-3 in their last 19 contests against Buffalo.

Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko was injured at the 15:13 mark of the second. The 22-year-old Finnish forward fell awkwardly along the boards behind the Sabres net, twisting his left knee at an unnatural angle. He had to be helped to the Rangers dressing room, unable to put any weight on his left leg.

For more New York Rangers news, turn to AMNY.com