October 19th, 2017

Maple Leafs survive four-goal Rangers’ comeback to win wild home opener


By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on October 7, 2017.

TORONTO – Third-period goals by Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri helped stave off a four-goal New York Rangers comeback and give the Toronto Maple Leafs an 8-5 win in a wild home opener Saturday night.

The Leafs (2-0-0) have now scored 15 goals in two games but have fallen prey to defensive lapses that will discombobulate coach Mike Babcock.

It was an adventure in defending for both teams at times, with Toronto pulling ahead 5-1 in the first period and chasing Henrik Lundqvist before the Rangers scored four unanswered goals to quieten the Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,621.

Tied 5-5 going into the third period, Bozak ended the Leafs’ slide at 7:17 by redirecting a fine pass from the corner from Jake Gardiner over Ondrej Pavelec’s glove. The Rangers lost a challenge that the play was offside, earning a minor penalty in the process.

Kevin Hayes took a slashing penalty for New York and Komarov made it 7-5 at 9:52, tapping in the rebound after William Nylander roofed a backhand off the crossbar.

The Rangers pulled their goalie with some three minutes remaining only to see Ryan McDonagh take a hooking penalty. Kadri took advantage with a low shot at 18:30.

Toronto also got two goals from Zach Hyman and singles from Dominic Moore, Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev.

J.T. Miller, Kevin Shattenkirk, Mika Zibanejad, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello scored for the Rangers (0-2-0). Zuccarello also had three assists.

Toronto won its season opener 7-2 on Wednesday in Winnipeg and the Leafs ran circles around the Rangers in the early going.

Lundqvist must have felt like he was in a shooting gallery following a first period that saw Toronto lead 5-2 after outshooting the Rangers 17-12. The beleaguered Swede was replaced by Pavelec to start the second period.

Toronto also chased starter Steve Mason in Winnipeg.

The pace slowed in the second period before Zibanejad, with his third of the season, made it 5-3 with a power-play goal on a screened shot at 7:43. Staal then scored with a redirect at 12:14 on a delayed penalty and Zuccarello tied it up at on a high deflection at 14:06 that survived a video replay.

The Rangers, who had a 15-11 edge in shots in the second period, could have had more in the period but Frederik Andersen made a huge save and the Leafs got some kind bounces around their goal.

The crowd was ready for the game, chanting “Go Leafs Go” before New York took the ice. They had been warmed up by the 48th Highlanders pipe band, before the Leafs were introduced with photos of the players as kids shown on the video screen.

The on-ice action started almost immediately with three goals in three minutes four seconds as Lundqvist and Anderson found themselves under fire.

Lundqvist was the far busier, giving up four goals on 15 shots before the first period was three-quarters over. The fans cheered him late in the period when he made a save, with Lundqvist holding up his glove up in response to the jibe.

Moore, a former Ranger starting his second stint as a Leaf, capped off an abrasive fourth-line shift by tipping in a Zaitsev shot from the point at 2:30. Miller tied it up 72 seconds later, making a nuisance of himself in front of the net.

Hyman, playing in his 100th NHL game, restored the Leafs lead at 5:34. Initially stopped by a fine Lundqvist pad save after bursting through the Rangers defence, Hyman got the puck back after it bounced back off a body and tucked the puck around Lundqvist’s lunging leg into the net.

The smooth-skating Gardiner then split the defence on an end-to-end power-play rush and beat Lundqvist with a low shot at 11:07 for a 3-1 lead. Zaitsev scored on a wrist shot through traffic at 13:59 and Hyman, after some tenacious forechecking behind the goal, stuffed the puck through Lundqvist for a 5-1 lead at 17:19. The goal was initially credited to Nylander.

Shattenkirk pulled one back late in the period on the power play, with a screen shot from the point.

The Rangers were beaten 4-2 on Thursday by visiting Colorado despite outshooting the Avs 39-26.

Moore, who played parts of five seasons with the Rangers, replaced Eric Fehr while defenceman Calle Rosen came in for Andreas Borgman.

There were other changes. Outside the Leafs’ dressing room, there is now a futuristic blueish installation featuring the words: Honour, Pride, Courage. Underneath are the Leafs names that are engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter


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