Toronto- The New York Rangers fell short tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3. Playing their fourth game in six nights, the Rangers ran into a fresher Toronto club that was able to take the first game in a home & home series. After holding both the Penguins (twice) and the Hurricanes to two goals or fewer, the four goals allowed tonight was only the third time all season that the Rangers allowed 4+ in a game.
Some of those defensive lapses that had plagued the Rangers earlier in the season seemed to rear their ugly heads tonight. On two of the four goals, Maple Leafs players were presented with golden opportunities one-on-one in front against with Lundqvist. Each time Hank would make the initial save, but he could only do so much. This is one part of the game that I thought the Rangers had done a good job in cleaning up over the past month or so; tonight we will chalk it up to fatigue as the blame for the mental lapses on the back end.
Not to get lost in this is the team’s overall willingness not to give up. Trailing 3-1 heading into the third period, Rick Nash scored on one of his beautiful patented power moves to the net making it a one goal game with about 15 minutes remaining. Still refusing to quit, Derek Stepan sniped one top cheddar tying the game at three apiece with 11 minutes to go.
The Leafs responded almost immediately with Kessel getting his own rebound just 39 seconds after the Rangers tied it, putting Toronto ahead 4-3 for good. In the end, I think it was the fatigue that got to the Rangers tonight. The Leafs looked quicker, and the Rangers made some sloppy mistakes in their defensive zone that cost them. With the Rangers returning to MSG on Wednesday night, look for them to feed off the home crowd, tighten up their game, and get back on the winning track in the last game of this home & home series.
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