Leafs Spoil Garden Party
In the preview for tonight's Leafs Rangers game I said that this game was a statement game for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming off of a loss in Philadelphia, and playing without their number one goalie (James Reimer), the Leafs survived the first period before dominating their original six rivals for a 4-2 victory. The Rangers outshot Toronto 16-10 in the first period taking a 1-0 lead into the intermission on a goal by Dan Girardi. The Rangers could have been ahead by more, but two goals were justly waived off due to Ryan Callahan interfering with Jonas Gustavsson.
A weak Matthew Lombardi wrister found a way through Henrik Lundqvist and the Leafs never looked back. Toronto outshot the Rangers 26-14 after the first period, and most Rangers opportunities were from the outside. The Leafs defense, led by Carl Gunnarsson and Mike Komisarek had a great night keeping the Rangers out of the prime scoring areas. Dion Phaneuf had a running feud with Brandon Dubinsky all night, and the Leafs captain was a physical thorn in the side of the Rangers all night long. Tim Connolly had a successful debut, setting up both Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel for prime scoing chances. Connolly's playmaking abilities are something that this Leaf team has been missing for awhile, if he can remain healthy he will be a big boost to this current squad.
Toronto dominated the neutral zone, creating numerous turnovers. The Leafs were able to break out of their zone with ease, and attacked the Rangers defense with speed all night. With the game tied at ones after two periods, Lupul banged in a garbage goal to give the Leafs a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Clarke MacArthur and Mike Brown scored their first goals of the season to add insurance, before a late Michael Del Zotto point shot closed the gap for the blueshirts. Although the Leafs dominated the Rangers tonight, the Leafs were lucky that perennial Vezina candidate Lundqvist had an off night. While Lundqvist did struggle, he still managed to deny Kessel on two breakaway opportunities in the second period.
Before tonight's game the Leafs announced that James Reimer was placed on the IR with concussion symptoms , making him unavailable until Sunday's game with the Senators. Gustavsson was still shaky in the net particularly on Girardi's goal, but the Leafs team protected their goalie tonight by playing a perfect road game.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Carl Gunnarsson - Perhaps the Leafs most consistent skater this season, Gunnarsson was everywhere tonight. Playing 23:17 on the night the underrated Sweede's positioning was perfect, and his stick was great in breaking up the rangers attack tonight.
Rangers: Dan Girardi - In the absence of Marc Staal Girardi has become the workhorse for the Rangers. He scored the first goal for his team, but his ability to block shots and get in the middle of Leaf rushes was big for his team tonight.
The Leafs will go head home after this four game road trip to host Crosbyless Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night.