Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Puck luck goes Rangers way as Maple Leafs’ nine-game point streak comes to an end with 5-2 loss
By Joseph Zita2 months ago
Last night, the Maple Leafs closed out their three-game homestand against the New York Rangers while honouring their captain, John Tavares, for reaching the 1000-point milestone last Monday against the New York Islanders. Before puck drop, the Leafs honoured John Tavares for the incredible milestone by gifting him and his family flowers, a golden stick for 1000 points, mini golden sticks for his children, a painting of Tavares, and a $25,000 donation to the John Tavares Foundation.
It was a much different first period last night compared to the previous game these two teams played in New York. For starters, there weren’t five goals combined between both teams like last Tuesday. The game started pretty conservative for both teams, not wanting to give up a lot of chances like in their previous meeting. Toronto got out to an early 2-1 shot advantage, but they eventually got stuck at three shots while the Rangers were generating a lot of shots on Martin Jones off the rush. Neither team got on the board through the first 20 minutes, but the Rangers managed to register 12 shots and limit the Maple Leafs to just six after the first frame.
Toronto’s last four first periods have been quite a rollercoaster. They scored four against the Rangers last Tuesday, zero against the Blue Jackets last Thursday, three against the Penguins last Saturday, and zero last night. Although New York held the advantage in hits 15-6, there weren’t any massive hits other than a missed interference call on Max Domi when he hit Will Cuylle and Barclay Goodrow throwing his weight at William Lagesson along the boards.
It was a much better start to the period for Toronto this time. They weren’t stuck at three shots for an extended period and controlled play quite a bit through the first five minutes of the second frame. Unfortunately, it was New York opening the scoring first, and it was a play where you couldn’t blame anyone on Toronto. 6:11 into the period, the puck took a couple of funny bounces and slowly found its way past Martin Jones and into the Maple Leafs’ net. Mika Zibanejad was credited with the goal and picked up his tenth of the season.
However, despite the unfortunate bounce against Toronto, that didn’t phase them. Just a minute and a half after New York opened the scoring, Morgan Rielly and Auston Matthews got the puck in transition to tie the game at one. Morgan Rielly did well at drawing attention to himself while he carried the puck through the face-off circle, and it left enough time for Matthews, who was left alone, to get set in front of the net to snipe his 24th of the season.
After tying the game almost immediately after Zibanejad had made it 1-0, Toronto got Scotiabank Arena back into the game, but William Lagesson, who got whistled for a holding penalty, killed any possible momentum. With just eight seconds left on the man advantage, the Rangers would get another lucky bounce to go their way, as Alexis Lafreniere’s shot, which was going way wide, deflected off Morgan Rielly and in past Martin Jones to give them the lead again, 2-1.
Both teams would trade chances to finish the period, but the score remained 2-1 for the Rangers as both teams headed into the second intermission.
Although the Rangers held the one-goal lead heading into the third period, neither of their goals went in directly off their stick, so there was probably a little bit of frustration in between periods with the puck luck going against Toronto. Well, it took Toronto just a little over a minute to even up the game again, and it came off the stick of Auston Matthews for the second time.
Jake McCabe found Matthews sneaking to the front of the net, and he sniped his second of the game and 25th of the season short-side post and in past Shesterkin.
However, for the second time after tying the game, New York would get the lead right back. After a neutral zone face-off loss for Toronto, Braden Schneider skated with the puck freely toward the net, and he snuck the puck past Jones to retake the lead midway through the third period.
Up to this point in the game, Toronto had yet to be given a power play despite a couple of controversial plays that went uncalled on Ranger players, and it didn’t get any easier when the referees called David Kampf for tripping, sending New York to their second power play of the night. Like their first power play, New York would find the back of the net thanks to Toronto, as Artemi Panarin’s shot went off William Lagesson’s skate and in.
At this point, the Maple Leafs were down 4-2 despite the game being pretty darn even. Sheldon Keefe pulled Martin Jones with a little over four minutes left in regulation, and there would be no comeback this time as Mika Zibanejad buried the empty-netter for his second of the game to wrap this one up 5-2.
Who stood out:
Another day, another multi-goal performance from the best goal-scorer in the league. Auston Matthews netted his 24th and 25th goals of the season in the losing effort, but he did pick up where he left off after missing the last game due to illness. He has now scored nine goals in the last five games he’s played in. I thought Morgan Rielly had another solid game on both sides of the puck. The blue-liner picked up his 18th assist of the season on Matthews’ first goal and had a pretty big breakup in the defensive zone with his stick when the Rangers were threatening on an odd-man rush.
Although the box score says Martin Jones let in four goals, you can only fault him on one of them, and it was the third goal (the game-winner). The first, second and fourth goal went off a Maple Leafs player, changing direction on Jones, not giving him a chance to stop it. Outside of that, I thought he had another solid outing. He made a couple of big stops when he needed to, but in the end, he wasn’t good enough to keep Toronto in the game long enough, which is unfortunate, given the puck luck wasn’t on their side last night.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game Thursday night when they travel on the road against the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)
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