|NYR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||2|
|TOR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||5|
Nov. 1, 2008
• PHOTO GALLERY
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
In the first month of the season, one of the Rangers’ true keys to success was their dominance of the third period. On Saturday night, playing their first match in the month of November, the Rangers surrendered a 2-0 lead by allowing the Toronto Maple Leafs five goals in the final stanza in a shocking 5-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Rangers, who remain atop the Eastern Conference with 21 points. The Maple Leafs have now won four of their last five contests, defeating top conference foes Boston, Ottawa, New Jersey, and the Rangers.
Having been stifled for the first 52 minutes of the match by a nearly air-tight Rangers defense, the Maple Leafs erupted for five goals in a span of 5:21 late in the third period. Rookie forward John Mitchell started the barrage with his first NHL goal at 12:36 of the final stanza, cutting the Rangers lead to 2-1.
Less than two minutes later, Jason Blake deflected a Dominic Moore shot between Stephen Valiquette’s pads to tie the game at 14:02.
Rangers head coach Tom Renney called a timeout to calm down his shocked troops, but it was to no avail. The Leafs grabbed their first lead just 52 seconds later when Pavel Kubina blasted a slap shot past Valiquette for a 3-2 Leafs advantage. Then Mitchell scored his second of the game at 16:06 and Moore hammered home his third of the season past an out of position Valiquette at 17:57 to close out the scoring.
The Maple Leafs’ explosion was stunning for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that up until the 12:36 mark of the third, the Rangers had completely shut down Toronto’s offense with an outstanding team commitment to defense, forcing turnovers and limiting chances all night long.
Valiquette, who received the start in goal to give Henrik Lundqvist a rest, had never lost to the Maple Leafs in his previous three career starts against them, including a shutout victory earlier this season. He finished the night with 30 saves.
The Rangers and Maple Leafs had their string of scoreless hockey over two games finally broken after a total of 84:50, when Ryan Callahan struck for the Rangers with 9.3 seconds remaining in the first period.
Nigel Dawes sent a pass from behind the goal line to a waiting Dan Girardi at the right point. Girardi then sent a perfect pass on to the stick of Callahan, who was stationed at the bottom of the left-wing circle. Callahan quickly snapped his shot over Vesa Toskala, who was trying to scramble back into position, for his fourth goal of the season, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The goal was the first scored by either team in the season series between the Rangers and Maple Leafs. In the first meeting between these two Original Six teams on Oct. 17 at MSG, the Blueshirts and Toronto played 65 scoreless minutes before the home team won the game in the shootout.
It would take nearly 16 more minutes before another goal would be scored, but yet again it was the Rangers who were able to light the red lamp. And it was the fourth line of Blair Betts, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Colton Orr that would pave the way for the score that would up the their lead to 2-0.
That threesome turned in a terrific shift, pinning the Leafs deep in their own zone with a strong forecheck and cycling of the puck. Eventually gaining an opening, Sjostrom passed the puck back to the left point where Dmitri Kalinin whistled a shot wide of the cage. Betts, though, was camped out to the right side of the net, collected the rebound off the back wall, and stuffed the puck in for his second goal of the season at 15:25 of the second period, doubling the Rangers’ advantage.
That the Rangers had scored the only two goals of the game was due, in part, to an outstanding penalty kill, as well as some sharp play by Valiquette.
The Rangers penalty-killers denied all five Toronto power plays over the first two periods, including three in the first 13 minutes of the match. All six Rangers defensemen played key roles in the five kills, with Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Brandon Dubinsky, Callahan, Betts, and Sjostrom starring up front to suffocate the Leafs at every turn.
Valiquette did his job, as well, during the penalty kills, but he was forced to step up his game more so at even strength. The 31-year-old netminder made a pair of neat saves on wraparound attempts by Blake at 17:47 of the first and by Matt Stajan at 6:55 of the second, and he robbed Blake with a quick left pad stop at 8:50 of the middle stanza.
Toronto also had some bad luck come into play when Tomas Kaberle’s screened wrist shot from just inside the blueline flew by Valiquette, but clanged off the post, at 6:59 of the second.
Valiquette was called upon to make a few strong saves to open up the third period, including Niklas Hagman’s rebound snap shot from in close at the three minute mark, to keep the Rangers ahead 2-0.
Aaron Voros came close to giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead a couple of minutes later when his perfect deflection in front was denied by Toskala, who made an excellent pad stop, just as Voros was checked from behind into the Leafs goalie.
The Rangers' best chance to put the game away came during a power play midway through the final stanza when Drury was absolutely robbed on a one-timer, off a spinning backhand pass from Markus Naslund. Toskala tightly squeezed his pads together to make sure that the puck would not sneak through. It ended up being the most important save of the game because less than two minutes later Mitchell scored to jumpstart the Leafs comeback.
With two days to reflect upon the loss in Toronto, the Rangers will return to action Tuesday night when they host the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.
|Ryan Callahan (4) ASST: Dan Girardi (7), Nigel Dawes (1)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Blair Betts (2) ASST: Dmitri Kalinin (4), Fredrik Sjostrom (1)|
2 - 0 NYR
|John Mitchell (1) ASST: Matt Stajan (4), Niklas Hagman (4)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Jason Blake (2) ASST: Dominic Moore (3)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Pavel Kubina (2) ASST: Nik Antropov (5), Tomas Kaberle (4)|
3 - 2 TOR
|John Mitchell (2) ASST: Luke Schenn (2), Jason Blake (4)|
4 - 2 TOR
|Dominic Moore (3) ASST: John Mitchell (3), Jeff Finger (1)|
5 - 2 TOR
|Brandon Dubinsky Interference against John Mitchell|
|Fredrik Sjostrom Hooking against Niklas Hagman|
|Jamal Mayers Hooking against Markus Naslund|
|Aaron Voros Interference on goalkeeper against Vesa Toskala|
|Dmitri Kalinin Hi-sticking against Alexander Steen|
|Ryan Callahan Holding against Tomas Kaberle|
|John Mitchell Holding against Colton Orr|
|SA: 35||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 30||EV: 24 - 29|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .857||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 20||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 18||EV: 12 - 14|
|PIM: 0||PP: 5 - 5|
|SV%: .900||SH: 1 - 1|