Thanks again to Glen Miller, who covered the recap for us. He covered Friday’s recap as well. Great job as always Glen, thanks for the help. Make sure to follow Glen on Twitter.
That was close. A contest with a struggling Toronto Maple Leafs team, 5 – 15 – 3 in their last 23 and destined to miss the postseason tournament for the seventh consecutive year, shouldn’t have been so nerve-wracking. The HNIC broadcast mentioned several times throughout the broadcast that the Leafs hadn’t won at home in 47 days.
Toronto appeared to be a team ripe for the picking yet it wouldn’t be the New York Rangers if everything went according to script. Whether things went according to plan or not the final results are pretty solid. The Rangers leave Air Canada Center with two points after a 4 – 3 shootout victory while the molten-lava hot Pittsburgh Penguins were smoked by the Ottawa Senators (smoked Penguin anyone?) 8 – 4. That gives the Rangers a three-point cushion over Pittsburgh though the Penguins still do possess a game-in-hand.
On to the breakdown:
- The first few minutes were back-and-forth but with no great chances from either side. The Leafs directed more rubber at Hank than vice-versa. The Rangers would get the game’s first PP 4:11 in when Leafs F Joey Crabb got caught using his free hand to hold up Marc Staal in the Leafs offensive zone. I could probably stop typing there as any Rangers fan should know what happened next. Nothing. The Blue Shirts ultra-forgettable PP was held off the board once again (29th in the league and falling). Derek Stepan was credited with the only two shots on the man-advantage.
- Ryan Callahan had the first great chance of the game taking a loose puck in the slot and backhanding it on Gustavsson. Being on the backhand, Cally was unable to lift the puck into the open net and Gustavsson was able to make the save with the right pad.
- Following that close call, Stu Bickel would be guilty of a poorly-timed pinch helping to spring the Leafs on, surprise, an odd-man rush. Kessel would fly up the LW with D Cody Franson joining the play to make it a two-on-one. Kessel’s cross-ice feed would elude the defenseman and end up on Franson’s twig for an easy goal. Brandon Dubinsky also appeared to be guilty of a lazy backcheck on the play and was shuffled down to the 4th line afterwards.
- The Rangers would respond just more than three minutes later on a soft goal scored by Gabby. Brad Richards won a faceoff in the offensive zone and the puck ended up on the stick of Tim Erixon. Erixon moved the puck to Gaborik along the LW boards and the Rangers leading goal-scorer would wrist a slow shot towards the net. Gustavsson overplayed the shot, lunging to his left and out of position as the puck deflected off of D Dion Phaneuf’s leg and by the Leafs goaltender to tie the game. It was Gaborik’s 36th of the season.
- Hank would make his best save of the period with little more than a minute remaining in the period. An ill-advised Marc Staal pass at the blue line was picked off by Nazem Kadri leading to a partial break. Kadri tried to sneak a shot through the five-hole but Hank made the stop and fell back into the vaunted snow angel position to cover the puck and avoid further danger.
- Shots through one were seven to six in favor of the New York Rangers.
- Ryan Hamilton would be called with a slash on John Mithcell breaking Mitchell’s stick and preventing a good scoring chance. The second PP unit actual had some good chances. Dubinsky’s slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle was stopped by Gustavsson. Tim Erixon, vying for his first career NHL goal, nearly got it with a slapshot from the left point. The shot got through Gustavsson but slid wide of the net.
- A failed clearing attempt by Brad Richards would lead to Toronto’s second goal. After a puck battle along the RW boards Richards had a chance to get the puck out of danger but it was held in at the line by Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf would throw a shot on net but it was deflected on the way in and ended up on the stick of Crabb. Crabb tried to deke Hank and Lundqvist got his pad on the stick but it trickled under and by Hank for the goal.
- The Rangers would ramp up their forecheck around the midway point of the period. At one point they held the puck in the offensive zone for roughly a 1:30 stretch and even completed a full line change in the midst of the action. The effort wouldn’t lead to a goal but they did have several good chances.
- Brandon Dubinsky knotted the contest up again at the 15:29 mark cashing in on a rebound during a scramble in front of the cage. It was Dubinsky’s ninth tally and was assisted by John Mitchell.
- The Rangers would grab their first lead of the game at 4:19 of the third on Gaborik’s second of the night. With the Rangers offside and the puck loose just inside the blue line, Richards quickly exited the zone while almost simultaneously gaining possession of the puck. He saucered an excellent pass to a streaking Gaborik who corralled the puck and in one motion beat Gustavsson five-hole.
- The lead would be short-lived as Tim Connolly would draw the Leafs even just 0:18 after the Gaborik goal. Carl Hagelin was guilty of coasting on the backcheck and he was beaten to a rebound by Connolly who beat Hank for his 12th of the season.
- The Leafs would nearly take the lead less than a minute later when Hank struggled to control the rebound of a bad angle Matthew Lombardi shot from the LW. Tyler Bozak just missed getting to the rebound with Hank well out of his net. During the action Derek Stepan would get whistled for holding and the Leafs would go on their first PP of the night.
- The Rangers would kill of the first PP with little trouble but would immediately go back on the kill when Brian Boyle was caught high-sticking Phil Kessel behind the Ranger net. The Blue Shirts would again successfully kill off the infraction.
- A third consecutive call would go against the Rangers with just over eight minutes remaining in regulation. Dan Girardi got his stick low on Kessel’s legs and the minute the Leaf winger felt the contact he dropped to the ice drawing the call. The Leafs, after two very Ranger-like PP’s finally generated a couple of solid scoring chances but Hank would hold the fort.
- The Rangers had the better of the play in the extra session just missing ending the game several times. Carl Hagelin, skating with Richards, took the puck to an open area in the high slot and just missed with a wrist shot. A little later Dubinsky sent a centering feed toward the net where Callahan was stationed. Callahan took a couple whacks at the puck but couldn’t get it by Gustavsson. Callahan would nearly end it a little later on a mad scramble in front of Gustavsson but he couldn’t locate the loose puck.
- The Leafs best chance was when Kessel broke in on a rush on the RW but missed wide on his snapshot.
- Tyler Bozak took the first turn for Toronto and ended up outwaiting himself. He slowed up trying to get the perfect shot on Hank but instead he made a relatively easy glove save on Bozak. Apparently Bozak hasn’t seen the tape on Hank in the shootout. You slow down, you lose.
- After Tim Connolly put the Leafs up in round two of the shootout, Brad Richards evened it up with his first successful shootout goal in nine attempts .
- Nazem Kadri also didn’t do enough to beat Hank. He skated right up the gut shifting from forehand to backhand before trying to beat Hank on the backhand. Hank made a blocker stop. To set the stage for Callahan’s heroics.
- Callahanwould skate up on the LW and faked a shot before releasing a half-second later. His wrister would beat Gustavsson high to the stick side.
- Great to see the Penguins lose finally. Thank you Ottawa.
- The Rangers best players got it done tonight. Gaborik potted his 36th and 37th goals of the year. Brad Richards finished with two helpers. Callahan would earn the #1 star despite not scoring a point in regulation. Nice to see all the little things he does on the ice recognized. His shootout goal was also clutch.
- Lazy backchecking led to a couple of goals tonight. Torts was noticeably livid on the bench. You can’t have that lack of commitment at this stage of the season. It was nice to see Dubinsky up his play after his mistake. He had a good second-half of the game.
- Hank didn’t look right again. He gave up too many rebounds. I’m sure he’ll play himself out of it and I like the fact Torts went back to him on back-to-back nights.
- The top line may have accounted for two goals for but they also allowed two against. No way a line of David Steckel, Joey Crabb and Tim Connolly should net two goals against the Rangers top group. They need to do a better job in their own zone; a thought Torts echoed in his postgame.
- It wasn’t pretty by any stretch but the most important thing is they came away with two points. The Rangers now have a little bit more breathing room between them and the Penguins. The upcoming schedule offers three more winnable games against Minnesota, Winnipeg and Montreal before finishing up with a tougher four game stretch. One game at a time boys.