NEW YORK — The Sabres were unable to come back from a three-goal deficit after New York Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad netted a hat trick just over two minutes into the second period.
Buffalo lost 6-3 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.
"We did make some adjustments as the game went along, gave up a lot less, but obviously we couldn’t make up the goal differential, and that was the problem. We dug ourselves too big of a hole," Sabres interim coach Don Granato said after the game.
The Rangers took a 4-1 lead early in the second period after Zibanejad's third goal. The Sabres rallied, cutting the lead to 5-3 with a Sam Reinhart goal midway through the third period, but the Rangers were able to hold off Buffalo for the win.
Granato opted to leave in starting netminder Dustin Tokarski throughout the game instead of replacing him with top goalie prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who picked up his first NHL win in his first game in the league on Friday night.
But he said he thought about making the switch.
"(I) consulted with our coaches, our goalie coach. I was concerned at that point with Dustin’s confidence, probably the fourth goal. But the fifth one, I believe, was a power-play goal by them. So he did, his competitive fire came back in the game there, and I don’t think that was the difference," Granato said.
"We didn’t make up the goal differential at that point anyway where I thought of maybe pulling him out. But obviously I opted not to and Dustin responded fine from that standpoint. We just didn’t score enough from that standpoint. It would have been after the fourth that I would have done it.”
Along with Reinhart, Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson also scored for Buffalo. The Sabres and Rangers will have a rematch at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.