If the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to lose to the New York Rangers on Sunday, you’d expect a few reasonable explanations.
Maybe the Rangers’ red-hot top line of Mika Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, and Chris Kreider would light up the scoreboard, much like they’ve quietly been doing for weeks now. Perhaps the more-rested Rangers would take advantage of a Maple Leafs team coming off of an exciting overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens from Saturday.
That wasn’t really the story in the Rangers’ 4-1 win against the Maple Leafs, though.
Toronto sent a torrent of shots at New York’s net, but they could only beat Alexandar Georgiev one time. Georgiev celebrated his 23rd birthday by stopping a staggering 55 shots, ending Toronto’s four-game winning streak in the process.
The Maple Leafs were likely especially frustrated with their power play, as they went 0-for-4 on the man advantage despite an absurd 23 shots. Only Kasperi Kapanen could beat Georgiev, doing so on a breakaway.
While the Rangers’ top line didn’t win a scoring duel like one might have expected, they did chip in.
Zibanejad scored a goal just 28 seconds into the game, with Kreider and Zuccarello nabbing assists. It wasn’t the game-winner, but Adam McQuaid‘s surprising 3-1 goal was crucial, and Kreider got the lone assist there. It wouldn’t be surprising if that insurance tally ended up taking the air out of the Maple Leafs, as it came pretty late in the game. Toronto’s offense is scary, but the prospect of beating Georgiev twice – and quickly – might have felt like a steep climb.
A push for a playoff berth seems unlikely for the Rangers, yet on certain nights, the combination of a dangerous top line and sturdy goaltending could make them a real upset threat. Apparently that formula can sometimes be a winning one even when Henrik Lundqvist has the night off.