Boy were the Rangers sloppy in this one. Michael Del Zotto had a very rough game, and had three separate miscues that led directly to Leafs goals. The Leafs aren’t elite, but they are good enough that if you make miscues like that they will capitalize. Rick Nash and Derek Stepan were able to keep this game interesting with timely goals, but they represented 50% of the players that weren’t sloppy (Mats Zuccarello, Anton Stralman). This was ugly to watch all around, and the Rangers came out on the losing end because of their sloppiness. On to the goals:
Leafs 1, Rangers 0
With the Rangers making a bad change (as Joe pointed out), the Leafs rushed in on a semi-3-on-2 with Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and John Michael-Liles, with Michael Del Zotto and Anton Stralman back. Kessel’s shot gets deflected wide, and Liles goes behind the net for the puck. Stralman is with him, but Del Zotto leaves van Riemsdyk alone in front to go to Liles as well. Henrik Lundqvist made the first save –I don’t know how he made that save– when Liles got the puck to JVR, but he had all the time in the world to get the rebound.
Leafs 2, Rangers 0
This began as a potential 3-on-2, but Clarke MacArthur mishandled the puck a bit and allowed Del Zotto to attempt to break it up. The problem was that MDZ mishandled the puck and MacArthur chipped it past him to begin a 3-on-1. MacArthur eventually got the puck to Nazem Kadri, who got it past a sliding Girardi –who was so far out of position on that slide it made me laugh– to Ryan O’Byrne. Hank had no shot.
Rangers 1, Leafs 2
Derek Stepan led a 2-on-2 rush with Rick Nash, and fed him the puck at the blue line. Nash went wide around the pair of Cody Franson and John Michael-Liles, and did his patented Nash-wide-around-the-defense-and-power-to-the-front-and-stuff-it-in move. James Reimer made the first save, but the puck ricocheted off a few legs, then through Reimer’s, for the goal.
Leafs 3, Rangers 1
With the Leafs on the powerplay, they cycled the puck well and eventually worked the puck to Cody Franson at the point. Franson worked the puck to Dion Phaneuf who got the puck to Phil Kessel at the far side. At this point (pictured above) you can see James van Riemsdyk in front of the net screening Lundqvist, and Ryan McDonagh apparently not moving him away. The reason why he can’t is because Franson is cutting to the net at the back door, and McDonagh is left to cover them both. Dan Girardi winds up going a little too far up for the Kessel shot as well, but that doesn’t affect the fact that Franson made a smart play in cutting to the net. He divided McDonagh’s attention, which prevented him from moving the screen in front by JVR.
Rangers 2, Leafs 3
Nash did it again. The Leafs didn’t have their top pair on defense, and after Nash collected the pass from John Moore, he was off to the races, completely blowing past Mark Frasor at the circle, and the pulling his usual Nash-wide-around-the-defense-and-power-to-the-front-and-stuff-it-in move. He was a higher up, so all he needed to do was wait out Reimer. It helps that Carl Hagelin drew a penalty in front on Cody Franson, that may have distracted Reimer.
Rangers 3, Leafs 3
This one was easy. Nikolai Kulemin tried to pinch in and keep the puck deep while on the powerplay, but Stepan was able to chip it past him and start a 2-on-1 with Darroll Powe. Stepan was looking shot all the way, and converted.
Lefas 4, Rangers 3
The Leafs caught the Rangers running around in their own zone, but it wasn’t until the puck wound up at the far side face off dot that the breakdowns began. The main breakdown was MDZ being too high at the top of the circle. Once the Leafs broke through, MDZ was even higher, leaving van Riemsdyk enough time to get the puck to Tyler Bozak, who got the puck to Kessel behind both Girardi and Nash, who was covering for MDZ. Kessel was a bit fortunate here, as he whiffed on the original shot, but a fortuitous rebound went right to his stick for the rebound goal.
As we discussed earlier today, the Rangers need a 6-3-1 record in their final 10 games to guarantee themselves a playoff berth. I figured they would split the home-and-home with Toronto, so this loss isn’t much of a surprise at this point. What was a surprise was the sloppy play. The Rangers really need to salvage the split on Wednesday if they are to have any chance of avoiding a date with the Pens or the Habs in the first round. Best to have a short memory, and get back at it then.