Maple Leafs-Rangers Preview

While the New York Rangers have struggled of late, they had

reason to celebrate after picking up two points their last time

out.

A visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs could help them make it two

in a row for the first time in a month.

The Rangers conclude a team-record nine-game homestand Monday

night against the Maple Leafs, losers in nine of 10 on the

road.

New York (17-18-2) had allowed 27 goals during a 1-4-2 stretch

before beating Minnesota 4-1 on Sunday. Benoit Pouliot, Carl

Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider all scored while backup

Cam Talbot made 24 saves.

“Probably our best game all year when it comes to playing a full

60 minutes and everyone contributing,” said Hagelin, who has scored

in three of the last four games. “We definitely needed one of these

just to feel good about ourselves.”

The Rangers haven’t posted consecutive wins since Nov. 21-23,

and they were 2-8-2 in their previous 12 on home ice.

“We owed the fans this one. They’ve been supporting us quite a

bit lately, and we haven’t really produced for them,” said Talbot,

who improved to 7-2-0 and lowered his goals-against average to

1.67. “There is not a whole lot of time to think about it. Just go

out there and try to carry this game into tomorrow.”

While coach Alain Vigneault said he decided on Monday’s starter,

he kept his lips sealed. No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist had started

the previous seven games while compiling a 3.79 GAA.

“He’s (Talbot) a young kid that’s learning the NHL game,”

Vigneault said of the 26-year-old rookie. “He came in here and did

what we expect of our goalies and gave us a chance to win.”

New York – which hasn’t won consecutive home games since Nov.

6-10 – now goes for a fifth win in meetings with Toronto (18-16-4),

which is 2-5-1 in its last eight games. The Leafs have had an

especially rough time on the road, getting outscored 35-19 during a

1-6-3 stretch since the start of November.

Toronto hits the road after suffering a 5-4 shootout loss to

Detroit on Saturday. The Leafs, who were outshot 38-23, erased an

early 3-1 deficit before coming up short.

“We’ll take the point,” said captain and defenseman Dion

Phaneuf, who snapped a 25-game goalless drought. “Coming back, I

feel that was a big step for our team to come back against a team

that doesn’t really give up a whole lot. We did a lot of really

good things.”

James Reimer was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots

in the first period. Jonathan Bernier went on to stop 25 of 26

shots, but he surrendered two shootout goals in as many

chances.

“It takes a toll on you trying to dig out of a two-goal hole

like that,” Joffrey Lupul, who had a goal and an assist, told the

NHL’s official website. “If we take one thing from the game, it’s

probably get off to a little better start.”

Reimer, 1-1-1 with a 2.95 GAA against the Rangers, has gone

2-3-1 with a 3.79 GAA during an eight-game stretch overall. Bernier

is 1-4-1 in his last six and 1-6-2 in his last nine on the

road.

Lundqvist is 8-3-2 with a 2.20 GAA and two shutouts against

Toronto since 2009-10.

The Rangers will need to be wary of Phil Kessel, who has four

goals and five assists in his last seven games in the series.

Kessel leads the Leafs with 33 points, 16 of which have come in 17

road contests.