Brassard scored two goals, set up crucial third-period tallies by J.T. Miller and Mats Zuccarello and finished with a career-best five points while the Rangers blew a two-goal lead and came back to beat Buffalo 6-3 Monday night for their eighth straight win over the Sabres.
“We knew it was only a matter of time,” Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said of Brassard, who has battled a flu bug. “You get a tough illness like that, it’s tough to get your body back to feeling the way you want to feel as a hockey player. It’s great to see him break through before the break.”
Brassard is the first Ranger to tally five points in a game since Ryan Callahan on Mar. 6, 2011 vs. Philadelphia (four goals, one assist). He also is the first to have four points in one period since Sean Avery on Mar. 17, 2007 vs. Boston.
“For me, I have been struggling the last two weeks to find some offence and I hope this will give me some confidence,” said Brassard, who had two goals and an assist in his last 11 games.
Miller said playing with Brassard has been great.
“If you asked him he probably wished over the last couple of games he could have brought more production but at the same time, he plays the same way every game,” Miller said. “He still brings it and this was a great example of what kind of threat he is with and without the puck.”
Miller snapped a tie, Zuccarello added a power-play goal and Brassard scored into an empty net after the Sabres made it 3-3 to allow the Rangers to head into the NHL All-Star break with three wins in four games.
Zemgus Girgensons scored twice in a 1:13 span early in the third period to rally Buffalo from a 3-1 deficit. It was his first game after missing four with an upper-body injury.
This is the Sabres’ first eight-game losing streak against the Rangers. They play in Ottawa on Tuesday night in their final game before the break.
Girgensons stunned the Rangers and the Madison Square Garden crowd with his quick scores, which wiped out a lead that came courtesy of Stalberg and Brassard.
Girgensons snapped a shot in close past Henrik Lundqvist at 4:31 and he beat the goaltender with a backhander on a breakaway at 5:44.
“I didn’t want to get frustrated throughout the year,” said Girgensons, who had three goals in his first 40 games. “It’s been a long time. It’s not fun when you lose but I did like to get two goals. It’s not that bad.”
A minute later Miller put New York ahead for good with his fifth goal in the last six games. Jesper Fast sent a cross-ice pass from the right circle that tipped off the stick of a Sabres’ defenceman and gave Miller a shot at an open net against a defenceless Chad Johnson.
“If it doesn’t hit off that stick, Brass has a tap-in,” Miller said.
Zuccarello increased the lead to 5-3 less than 3 minutes later, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Derek Stepan on New York’s fourth power play. Brassard added his second goal in the final minute, scoring into an empty net.
Stalberg had given New York a 2-1 lead with a spinning shot late in the second period and Brassard scored when Fast’s pass deflected off his skate and in.
McIlrath and Gionta exchanged goals in the first period.
NOTES: This was the first of three games between the teams this season. … Rangers F Rick Nash missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … Rangers D Dan Boyle was a healthy scratch after playing in the last 24 games. … This was Rangers coach Alain Vigneault’s 1,019th game, tying him with Pat Burns for 19th place in NHL history. … Sabres F Evander Kane played in his 400th NHL game. … Eichel has five goals and 13 assists in his last 17 games.