Rangers wary of powerful Maple Leafs
After the Maple Leafs struggled through an 0-for-17 drought with the man advantage in their previous four games, they were 3-for-3 on the power play Thursday night in a 6-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
“I don’t think there was any sense of panic,” said Maple Leafs center John Tavares, who scored twice, once on a power play Thursday. “We just tried to fine-tune, refocus, look at some things, get some practice time, some good video sessions, talk about it and sometimes you just get some better bounces and get rewarded. Overall, got some good results there and obviously, want to carry it forward.”
On a positive note for the Rangers, they were 5-for-5 killing penalties with a short-handed goal that turned out to be the game-winner Tuesday in a 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks after going 11-for-17 on the penalty kill in the previous four games. They are tied for fourth in the NHL with five short-handed goals.
“Listen, we haven’t felt great about ourselves for a while,” Rangers coach David Quinn said after his team scored three third-period goals against Anaheim. “It’s been duly noted that we’ve been in a little bit of a spiral here; we’ve blown some leads; we’ve played some good hockey, but not good enough, and found ways to lose. But tonight was a feel-good moment for us. We didn’t play great in the first two, we didn’t play poorly; it was a very ‘blah’ hockey game, I thought, for two periods. And to be able to overcome the first two periods and play with the purpose and the pace that we did, a little bit of an edge to our game, is a testament to our guys and the mental aspect of this game.”
This will be the first of three meetings between the teams this season, two in Toronto. The Rangers (15-13-5) are 4-9-2 on the road. The Maple Leafs (23-10-2) are 10-5-1 at home.
Although the Maple Leafs won all three games against the Rangers last season, New York has won six of the past 10 games between the teams dating to Feb. 15, 2015.
Rielly feels that the extra practice with the man advantage paid off. “Yeah, I think so,” the defenseman said. “We were dry there for a bit and when you go through tough slump like that, you’ve just got to work through it. That’s all it was. We worked on it a lot in practice and we felt good. It was just a matter of time, so we were happy with it tonight.”
The Maple Leafs will be without Zach Hyman for about three weeks with a sprained ankle.
“We didn’t know for sure; it’s Hyman so he didn’t complain about anything and he kept playing anyway (Tuesday),” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “He got the slew foot there in New Jersey (in the 7-2 Toronto win) and went into the boards, hurt his ankle, kept playing. We thought — he tried to go (Thursday) and we thought he was playing (against the Panthers). Obviously, it’s like anything, you get an opportunity for someone else. He’s a real important part of our team because he’s so heavy. We don’t have enough heavy guys and he’s one of those guys. So, that hurts us that way to be heavy in the offensive zone. Someone else gets an opportunity, someone else gets an opportunity on the penalty kill and we’ll end up being better for it.”