Rangers outlast Maple Leafs for 2-1 win in shootout
TORONTO (AP) Mika Zibanejad helped the New York Rangers continue their strong play in February.
Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.
New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.
”We were definitely playing the right way,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
”I thought we had a great first period. Had a few Grade A opportunities. Their goaltender made some big saves.”
Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.
The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal.
Lundqvist passed Chris Osgood for sole possession of 11th place on the NHL’s wins list with No. 402. In addition, Lundqvist is one win away from tying Grant Fuhr for 10th place.
In his past 14 appearances, Lundqvist is 10-2-1 with a 1.91 goals-against average.
Struggling in the new year and coming off an especially rough start (and win) against Winnipeg on Tuesday, Andersen was locked in early.
”This is how I want to be playing,” Andersen said. ”I know I can play like this.”
After Auston Matthews turned the puck over in the neutral zone, Andersen was there to stop Rick Nash, making a left pad save off Brandon Pirri in transition and then shut down Mats Zuccarello’s attempt in tight.
”It’s nice to make the first few saves obviously, make you feel the crowd is behind you,” Andersen said. ”The team knows you’re feeling good and you start playing well.”
Later, with the Leafs up 1-0 on the 15th goal of the season by Brown, Andersen came up with the biggest of 14 first-period saves, stretching to make a left pad stop on former Leaf Michael Grabner. Grabner had stolen the puck with Toronto on a power play, racing in to lead an odd-man Rangers rush.
The puck eventually found its way to New York captain Ryan McDonagh who fed Grabner cross-ice to his right, his attempt denied by the 27-year-old netminder.
”We need him to be good,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said of Andersen before the game. ”We make mistakes so we need him to be good.”
Andersen entered the game with an .894 save percentage since Jan. 1 and .913 overall on the season, his first with the Leafs.
New York was the better team for the first 20 minutes, generating a number of scoring opportunities in transition while capitalizing on Toronto’s mistakes in the defensive zone.
At one point, Toronto failed with two chances to clear a puck, leading to sustained offensive zone time for the Rangers.
Brown, who got the opening goal, was filling in for 19-year-old Mitch Marner (48 points) alongside veterans James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. Marner was sitting out his fourth consecutive game with an upper-body injury.
The Leafs had a scare late in the first when No. 1 defenseman Morgan Rielly showed some discomfort after defending Jimmy Vesey’s rush. Rielly exited for the dressing room just before the period was through, but returned for the second and totaled almost 25 minutes.
Alexey Marchenko, picked up off waivers from Detroit earlier this month, logged just under 14 minutes in his Leafs debut.
Lundqvist kept New York within one early in the second when he denied Matthews after a Rangers neutral zone turnover.
”I knew after the first, after (Andersen) made some big saves – he looked on top of his game – that it was going to be a tight game and tough for us to score a lot of goals,” Lundqvist said.
Andersen continued to shine at the other end as the Leafs struggled to handle the Rangers attack, which came into the night ranked game in the NHL in goals per-game (3.32).
Of particular trouble for Toronto was the line of Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Zibanejad, the trio pushing 80 percent puck possession after 40 minutes while primarily going up against the Leafs’ top matchup line of Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov and Josh Leivo.
Even strength shot attempts were 54-33 favoring the Rangers after the second with a number of those attempts coming in tight around Andersen. New York had also won 27 of 38 faceoffs at that point.
The Leafs’ No. 1-ranked power play generated next to nothing with three opportunities.
The Rangers had a fine chance to even the game at one near the midway point of the third when Zuccarello broke in alone on Andersen only to be tripped up by Nikita Zaitsev.
But New York managed to capitalize, Miller scoring just as the ensuing power play expired. He banged in Pirri’s shot that bounced off the end-boards after going wide of the net.
It was Miller’s 19th goal this season, three off the career-high 22 he managed in 82 games last season.
Rielly nearly put the Leafs back in front in the waning minutes of regulation only to have his shot ring off the post.
Both goaltenders shined in the overtime with Lundqvist stopping breakaways on both Matthews and Komarov.
NOTES: New York leads the NHL in road wins this season with 20. … The Rangers also lead the NHL in third-period goals this season with 82.
Rangers: Head to Newark, New Jersey, to face the Devils on Saturday.
Maple Leafs: Host the rival Canadiens on Saturday night.