In a complete reversal of how they played 24 hours prior, the Rangers came out flying, dictating play, and grabbed a big lead en-route to a thoroughly convincing 7-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.The victory lifted the Rangers to a winning road trip as they finished with three wins in five games on the road heading home to Madison Square Garden where the Blueshirts host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
On Friday night the Rangers surrendered the game's first four goals en-route to a 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh, but in Toronto in front of a vast Hockey Night in Canada audience the Rangers were the aggressors right from the first drop of the puck, firing 18 shots on goal in the first period, racing to a 5-0 lead late in the second period, and never letting up in a big-time bounce back performance.
Dominic Moore score a pair of unassisted goals to lead New York, the eighth multiple-goal game of his NHL career, while 15 Rangers recorded at least one point in the contest. Cam Talbot started in goal and stopped 25 of 26 shots to improve his record to 9-3-0 on the season in 12 starts and 14 appearances. Carl Hagelin added a goal and an assist.
Entering the game the Rangers were 16-2-1 on the season when scoring the game-opening goal, and they improved upon that mark Saturday. Hagelin deflected a Dan Girardi wrist shot through a Brad Richards screen just 6:57 into the game, and the Rangers had themselves an important 1-0 lead on the road. The goal was Hagelin's tenth of the season, equaling his total from last season and putting him just four shy of his career-high set in 2011-12. Girardi's assist extended his consecutive point-scoring streak to three games.
Before the period was over the Rangers had doubled their advantage with Moore's left-wing shot somehow sneaking between Jonathan Bernier's pads at 15:57. It was a well-deserved 2-0 lead buoyed by an 18-7 advantage in shots on goal, and it could have been greater if not for some big-time saves by Bernier on Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh, among others.
Toronto had a better start to the second period, but Benoit Pouliot's eighth goal of the season---and fifth in the past eight games---seemed to take the wind out of the home team's sails. Stationed to Bernier's left, Pouliot had a slam dunk when Marc Staal sent a slick cross-crease pass right on to his tape at 10:39 of the middle period. Derick Brassard started the pretty scoring play with a crisp pass from right to left to a rushing Staal.
Several minutes later Kreider got the last laugh on Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf, and the Rangers had themselves a 4-0 lead. Kreider and Phaneuf bumped hard on an icing call against the Rangers and the pair began pushing and shoving after the whistle---an apparent carryover from their shared animosity December 27th at The Garden. Phaneuf, who earlier had to be separated with Brian Boyle after a whistle, jawed at Kreider as he skated off the ice.
After the Rangers won the next face off in their own end, Kreider took a pass from Derek Stepan and turned on the jets, flying past Toronto defenseman Cody Franson before cutting in on Bernier and tucking a shot inside the far post at 14:39 for his team-leading 11th goal of the season.
That pretty goal was followed by another at 16:35. This time it was Moore ducking under Maple Leafs d-man Jake Gardiner on right wing, then bursting towards the net before roofing his shot under the crossbar for his second unassisted goal of the game, and his third goal of the season.
Bernier was mercifully removed from the game at that point, replaced by James Reimer, after allowing five goals on 32 shots. Perhaps spurred on by the goalie change, the Maple Leafs finally beat Talbot at 17:42 of the second period when Joffrey Lupul's right-circle shot sailed over Talbot's glove and into the cage.
Richards made it 6-1 in favor of the visitors when he snapped a right-circle shot past Reimer 9:03 into the third period. It was his tenth goal of the season and first in 13 games.
Boyle deflected a Michael Del Zotto shot past Reimer for a power play goal---his first goal of any kind in 28 games--to make it 7-1 at 16:04.
The seven goals scored Saturday represented a single-game high for the Rangers this season, who now own an impressive 13-10-0 record on the road this season. Eight of their next ten games will be played on home ice, where they are only 8-10-2 so far this year.
Before this one was done, however, Kreider and Phaneuf came together again and this time the pair dropped the gloves in front of the Maple Leafs crease with 6:47 left to play in the game. Though it was more of a wrestling match, Kreider drew the first five-minute fighting major of his NHL career, and finished by putting the much-more experienced Phaneuf on his back.