Despite multiple comeback efforts, the Blueshirts ultimately were unable to down the 2nd best team in the league. Although the Rangers could not come out with the win, there were many bright spots in the 5-3 loss at the Scotia Bank Arena. Defenseman Neal Pionk revived his tremendous offensive play by recording a goal and a primary assist while Kevin Hayes extended his point streak to 6 games with a goal and an assist. In addition, the Blueshirts were tied with the electric offensive powerhouse squad for 40 minutes as the game was tied at 2 entering the third. The Rangers’ Chris Kreider said, “You have to take away the good, learn from the bad” after the hard fought matchup.
The final shots on goal were 36-28 in favor of the Mitch Marner led Leafs, who posted two goals and an assist.
The first period was quite even with the Rangers controlling the first 10 minutes and the Leafs dominating the latter half. Although New York came out swinging, the first goal was netted by Toronto winger Patrick Marleau. The future hall of famer deflected a shot of a soft Morgan Rielly wrister into the far side of the net. This was the Leaf’s first shot of the night and just 2:58 into the game. The Blueshirts continued to pressure Toronto goalie Frederick Anderson for the next couple of minutes, but Freddy was sharp early and often. Eventually, the Maple Leafs took advantage of their goaltenders stupendous play and the momentum slowly shifted in their favor. Ranger’s backup netminder Alexander Georgiev was great during this onslaught and stopped 14 consecutive shots to end the period.
The proud Maple Leafs fans were buzzing all throughout the second frame, especially when Rangers’ Adam Mcquaid and Leafs’ Nazem Kadri got into a scuffle in front of the Leafs net. After Kadri made contact with the Rangers goalie, Mcquaid took offense and ragdolled the Toronto forward. He crosscbecked him 3 times and threw him to the ground with no remorse, and in the process, received four minutes in penalties. Miraculously, the Blueshirts killed off the whole penalty against a Toronto team which has one of the best powerplays in the league. This certainly propelled the Rangers in that just three minutes after the kill, Neal Pionk wired a booming slap shot past Anderson to tie the game at one. Shortly afterwards, with just one minute left, Ryan Strome had a wide open net but slid the puck right through the crease. This missed oppurtunity would prove costly as the game headed into the third.
There is only one word to describe the third—crazy—with seven goals on 19 shots. Just 1:37 into the period, Mitch Marner got on a loose puck in front of Georgiev and sent a quick snap shot to the goal. Andreas Johnsson would be credited with the goal as the puck went off his back before entering the crease. Four minutes later, Morgan Rielly, who has the lead for most points by a defenseman in the league, ripped a shot top shelf to give Toronto a two goal lead. The Rangers would not give up as only one minute later Kevin Hayes delivered off a lovely pass from Filip Chytil. With the game at only a one goal difference, Mitch Marner scored a highlight reel goal on a breakaway to light up the crowd. Chris Kreider would light the lamp on a nice deflection late in the game, but Marner ultimately iced the game with an empty net goal.
The Blueshirts may have fallen, but they gave the Maple Leafs a scare on their home ice which is a feat not many teams have been able to do this season. Rangers coach David Quinn stated after the game,“I love the fact that we battled back.” Neal Pionk and Kevin Hayes will lead the Rangers back to the Garden to battle the Philadelphia flyers in a rivalry showdown on Sunday.