The Rangers capped off their five-game homestand at Madison Square Garden with a 4-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blueshirts may have come out on top, but it was not a clean win of any sorts. On his 23rd birthday, Alexander Georgiev bailed out the Blueshirts’ lackluster defense in stopping 55 of 56 shots. Not to mention, he had to stop 24 power play chances from the likes of John Tavares and Auston Matthews.
“That was a special birthday because I tried not to concentrate on the birthday wishes — I had an important game in front of me. I’m very happy it ended the way it ended.”
When asked what he would get the net-minder for his birthday, David Quinn replied, ”Nothing yet, but there’s going to be a big gift soon.”
To many’s confusion, Quinn also had this to say. “This is going to sound insane, but I thought we actually defended pretty well tonight. You look at the shot total, and I feel like a complete idiot walking off and saying we defended pretty well even though there were 55 shots. But I actually thought we defended pretty well. That’s a scary, scary team. They have high-end talent, they can beat you 1-on-1, but boy, I thought we did a good job clearing the netfront out.”
Interestingly, this was the the third time against the Rangers that the Leafs have recorded at least 50 shots on goal in regular season history. versus New York. Georgiev’’s 55 game performance is only second in Rangers history to a 59 save performance by legend Mike Richter. “Georgie” did get some help though as once again the first line broke through and combined for five points with Zibanejad scoring the lone goal.
The Zibanejad goal started off a whacky first period in which the Blueshirts were being outshot 21-4 at the halfway mark of the frame. Besides that, at 00:28, Mika Zibanejad netted his 23rd of the year on New York’s third shot on goal. He was able to corral the puck off a shot from Zuccarello and slid it past Toronto goalie Garret Sparks. Any jump the Rangers had in the opening seconds disappeared quickly as the Leafs started to test Georgiev constantly. Somehow, the 23 year old Bulgarian goalie was able to sustain the outstanding pressure from one of the most electrifying teams in the NHL for ten minutes. The Maple leafs finally broke through 10:35 into the contest by virtue of a slick goal by Kasperi Kapanen. The speedy winger went coast to coast and curled into the zone before elevating a puck past Georgiev. Shortly after the goal, Chris Kreider took an interference which would put even more distress onto the Rangers goalie and defense. After an unsettling kill, Kreider came out of the box, received a saucer pass and dished it to Jimmy Vesey who ripped a shot high glove on Sparks. Despite the Rangers gaining some more shots towards the end of the period, they were lucky to escape with a lead.
The middle frame was just like the first one, except nobody lit the lamp. Both goalies were excellent when they were called on to be. Garret Sparks saved 9/9 and Georgiev stopped 17 shots with more than half of those coming on the three Toronto power plays. At the buzzer, Georgiev’s performance rang a familiar beat throughout the carden but with a different word. The fans started chanting,” GEORGIE… GEORGIE…” Certianly high praise for a 23 year old kid. And the blieshirt faithful weren’t the only ones recognizing Georgiev’s spectacle of a showing.
David Quinn’s team needed to play a clean, thorough, and smart third period to close out the win–and they did that. They were discipline and played decent defense in front of Georgiev. The Maple Leafs did record 17 shots on goal, but most of them were just throw-aways from the blue line with no traffic. In regards to the scoring, at 11:59, Adam Mcquaid netted his second of the season with a nearly identical goal to one he scored earlier this week. From the right point, he let a seeing-eye shot go with a screen in front and the puck went top shelf to give New York a two goal lead. Kevin Hayes would add on a late empty netter to seal the deal.