The Rangers deserved two points tonight if for no other reason than they held the Maple Leafs 24+ minutes without a shot on goal during the second period and into the third. Of course, once Toronto finally did get a shot at 8:05 of the final frame, the tying goal ended up in the back of New York’s net. But in the end New York picked up two extremely valuable points. They are now tied with the sixth place Senators and seventh place Islanders at 44 points, but don’t own the tiebreaker over either team. The Winnipeg Jets loom two points back in ninth, but have played one more game than the Rangers.
Henrik Lundqvist was the hero again, especially during overtime and in the shootout, but it was also Mats Zuccarello’s first big moment since re-joining the Rangers. Zuccarello’s game has clearly improved, but he’d yet to make a major impact on the scoresheet and was called out by coach John Tortorella in his pregame press conference. Zuccarello ended up scoring the only goal of the shootout off a quick wrist shot that beat Toronto goalie James Reimer five-hole. The Rangers are now off until Saturday when they’ll visit the Islanders in a tremendous rivalry game with playoff implications.
Maple Leafs 1, Rangers 0
Lundqvist made a pair of terrific saves on Clarke MacArthur and Nazem Kadri, but the Rangers were unable to escape their defensive zone. Dion Phaneuf gathered the puck at the point and slowly drove to the net. He tried to throw a pass toward the slot, but Ryan Callahan intercepted it on his backhand. Unfortunately, Callahan didn’t see Phil Kessel coming hard from his blind side and Kessel was able to pick Callahan’s pocket and sweep the puck by a surprised Lundqvist in one quick motion. It was Kessel’s third goal in two games against the Rangers this week.
Rangers 1, Maple Leafs 1
With the game in danger of slipping away, the Rangers finally got their forecheck going and it paid dividends. Arron Asham was the first man to the puck behind Toronto’s goal line, but it was Carl Hagelin that took control. Operating behind the net, Hagelin tried to get the puck in front a couple of times before it ended up on Derek Stepan’s stick with his back to the goal. Stepan fed his open point-man, Ryan McDonagh, who fired a shot on net. The rebound came back to Hagelin, who was able to deposit the puck into an empty net, breaking a 10-game goal-less drought.
Rangers 2, Maple Leafs 1
Reimer struggled with a Hagelin shot off the rush and Derick Brassard collected the rebound along the boards. Brassard found McDonagh at the point and No. 27 executed a sweet stutter step move around Kadri to get to the middle of the ice. McDonagh let fly a strong wrister with Callahan providing the screen in front and beat Reimer over his glove.
Rangers 2, Maple Leafs 2
The Leafs went over 24 minutes without a shot on goal, but of course they scored when they finally got a chance. Dan Girardi couldn’t handle an Asham pass at the point, and James van Riemsdyk scooped up the loose puck. JVR streaked in two-on-one with Kessel against McDonagh with Asham also in hot pursuit on the backcheck. McDonagh was never able to get turned around and into position to tie up Kessel and van Riemsdyk fed Kessel for an easy tap-in goal, Kessel’s fourth in two games against the Rangers this week.
Rangers: Nash (stopped), Zuccarello (scored), Callahan (stopped)
Leafs: Bozak (stopped), Kadri (lost the puck), Grabovski (stopped)