Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner and Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist go after a rebound on Oct. 7, 2018, at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

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Hartnett: What We Learned About Rangers During 0-2-0 Weekend

Lundqvist, Howden Among Bright Spots

Sean Hartnett
October 08, 2018 - 12:38 pm
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The Rangers have begun the 2018-19 season 0-3-0. Three loses in the season’s first three games isn’t a surprise for a young team that’s learning a new system under a first-year coach.

We all knew this season was going to include learning experiences for head coach David Quinn and his players. Let’s recap what was learned over the weekend back-to-back.

SATURDAY: SABRES 3, RANGERS 1

The Rangers visited Buffalo's KeyBank Center and continued the energetic play shown in Thursday’s home opener. Again, Henrik Lundqvist stood on his head. His fine play in net and the Blueshirts’ intensity weren't enough to earn a victory.

Lundqvist stopped 26 of 28 shots during the night. He saved all 19 even-strength shots and each of the 13 shots directed at him in the third period. The 36-year-old Swede has stopped 56 of 60 shots through his first two appearances this season for a .933 save percentage. Lundqvist has saved 47 of 49 shots faced at even strength for a .959 even-strength save percentage.

The Rangers made a furious charge in the third period, registering 20 shots on goal in the final frame. On the other end of the rink, Carter Hutton was nothing short of incredible. The Buffalo netminder turned away 43 of 44 shots. His robbery of Brett Howden stood out as the save of the contest.

Howden was able to score his first career NHL goal. The 20-year-old center has enjoyed a promising start in his rookie season. He has recorded two points (one goal, one assist) through three games and has demonstrated skill at the faceoff dot.

His 23 faceoffs won are tied for 12th highest in the NHL. Howden has won 59 percent of draws to begin the season. He’s shown some nifty playmaking vision and a fearlessness to attack the crease in a small sample of games. Howden has averaged over a minute of power-play time per game and has also appeared on the penalty kill, underlining Quinn’s trust in the rookie.

Veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid notched his first assist as a Ranger, registered two shots on goal and totaled three hits.

SUNDAY: HURRICANES 8, RANGERS 5

What more can you say about a game in which the Rangers scored five goals and didn’t leave the rink with a victory? This was a frenzied, track-meet style game that lacked any semblance of defensive structure.

Quinn turned to backup Alexandar Georgiev for the second game of the road back-to-back at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. Georgiev surrendered seven goals on 39 shots, but he was subjected to unending shoddy defensive-zone play.

It’s difficult to point to positives in an 8-5 loss in which the Rangers repeatedly gave up leads, but Chris Kreider and Jimmy Vesey each scored twice. I don’t think there’s any Rangers fan who doesn’t expect Kreider’s play to be key going forward for the Blueshirts this season – but I can also see Vesey being an X-factor this campaign.

Vesey has been around the NHL long enough to have a good feel for the subtleties of the game. It’s fair to expect more from Vesey in this third professional season. Now is the time for the 25-year-old to progress beyond the 27-, 28-point seasons. He has the size, strength and goal-scoring instincts to become a quality power forward in this league. We’ll see if he can figure it out in Year 3.

Tony DeAngelo might have played his best game as a Ranger in the defeat. He recorded two assists, including one on the power play. I think he showed how much of a weapon he can be on the power play, and he sprung Kreider on the Rangers’ fifth goal.

Jesper Fast tied a single-game career-high with two assists. He leads the Rangers with three points (one goal, two assists).

Earning the first win of the season won’t be easy with Erik Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks visiting Madison Square Garden on Thursday. An 0-4-0 start would be the Rangers’ worst since the 1998-99 season.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey​.