Monster Effort as Leafs Beat Rangers 4-2
For the first thirty minutes of tonight's game it looked like the Leafs had become clones of the Boston Bruins team that had just handed them two straight losses. The Leafs came out of the gate like a bat out of hell, dominating the first half of the game against a red-hot New York Rangers team. Jumping out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of goals by Cody Franson, Tim Connolly and Joffrey Lupul, the Leafs looked unstoppable. Phil Kessel assisted on two of those three goals, and was a dynamo all night. Tonight's game was Kessel's best game in a blue and white sweater. The Lupul, Kessel and Bozak line played keep away from the blueshirts and for awhile it looked like the Leafs were going to embarrass the Rangers in front of the HBO cameras. However, that was before the referee's got involved.
Stefan Auger and Eric Furlatt were the officials tonight and they decided that they wanted to become the story on the night. After Artem Anisimov put the Rangers on the board, the Auger and Furlatt called two quick, weak penalties against the Leafs to put the Buds down two men. Marian Gaborik buried a great pass into an empty net, and just like that it was a one goal game. As the Leafs attempted to get their momentum back, Auger and Furlatt allowed the Rangers to all but tackle Leaf players without calls. Despite the fact that the terrible calls (and non-calls) continued throughout the third period, the Leafs managed to hand the Rangers their second regulation home ice loss of the season (both have come against the Leafs).
Toronto was fortunate though to have Jonas Gustavsson as the last line of defense on the night. For the second time this season, Gustavsson outplayed his Sweedish counterpart Henrik Lundqvist. Gustavsson was a beast tonight, stopping 30 of 32 shots, and making some huge saves late in the third period. The Rangers finished the game on the power play and with Lundqvist on the bench, but this time Gustavsson and the Leafs stood strong down two men.
Dion Phaneuf and Luke Schenn on consecutive shifts completely obliterated two Rangers players with clean, open ice bodychecks. Many people say that rivalry is only born through playoff series, but these two teams created some hatred for each other tonight. This was a great, playoff style win for the Leafs tonight. A big win also considering they were coming off of those two deflating losses to the Bruins.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Phil Kessel - Kessel has become an elite player in this league. His speed and skill was on display all night. Kessel made a couple of Rangers defenseman look really bad a couple of times with some slick stick handling. He played the playmaker tonight with two assists, and he also gave Michael Del Zotto a nice two handed slash late in the third period.
Rangers: Marian Gaborik - The slick sniper seems rejuvenated this season. He scored a big power play goal, and was foiled multiple times by Gustavsson. If it wasn't for The Monster, Gaborik could have had a hat trick tonight.
Millenism of the Night
"There's the penalty I thought might come eventually"
Next Game: The Leafs get right back at it with a game against the New Jersey Devils Tuesday night.