Maple Leafs Narrowly Edge Rangers for Much-Needed Road Win

Toronto (3) New York (2) Final

By: Gordon Brown

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The second game of Toronto’s five-game road trip took the Maple Leafs to New York City for a date with the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

New York has made a resurgence in the standings and have looked to be a playoff contender as of late. In fact, the Rangers came in just 1-point behind Toronto in the standings.

In other news, Auston Matthews would make his long-awaited return to the lineup following a six-game absence due to a concussion — which was revealed by Matthews himself at practice on Friday. Management supported his decision to disclose his injury to the public.

The Buds went 2-4-0 in that time span but should gain an overall boost to a team that’s teetering on expectations.

He’s now missed a total of 10 of the first 36 games (unrelated injuries) for the Leafs, so let’s hope the “C” word remains a figure of the past for this young star. According to Matthews, he hasn’t “played a game in a couple weeks so you don’t want to be out there trying to dipsy-doodle guys."

Well, despite what he said, he happened to do just that.

Matthews teamed up with William Nylander and Zach Hyman to stun the home crowd for the game’s opening goal. A tantalizing shift in the offensive zone helped open up the scoring with a goal late in the opening frame

As the second period got underway, Nylander started at centre in between Patrick Marleau and Leo Komarov. His opening face-off win resulted in an offensive zone draw for Toronto — which led to a 2-0 marker courtesy of Ron Hainsey. The 37-year-old ripped a one-timer past Lundqvist off of a feed from Morgan Rielly, his 20th assist of the campaign.

Later, Jake Gardiner attempted to break-out of the zone with a pass behind the net but instead found Jimmy Vesey, who wrapped the puck around for an easy strike against Frederik Andersen. The Rangers climbed within one-goal with plenty of time remaining.

Toronto managed to restore his team’s two-goal lead thanks to an individual effort by Auston Matthews. The 20-year-old phenom played a screen in front of Henrik Lundqvist and was left alone — which should already be a warning sign, however, once the puck arrived, AM34 completely undressed the seasoned goaltender for a 3-1 lead.

New York responded with two-goals to begin the final period of regulation time, essentially taking the decision down to the wire. J.T. Miller and Michael Grabner scored in succession to tie the game, only to have called back due to an offside call.

The Buds managed to fend off the attack and preserve a 3-2 advantage until the final buzzer. Auston Matthews even chipped in with a blocked shot in the dying seconds of play.

Going forward, the Buds will have some time off until next Thursday before travelling to Arizona and taking on the Coyotes. Puck drop is set at 9:00 p.m. EST.

For now, Toronto is safe in second place for the Atlantic Division — while Boston trails by just 2-points with three-games in hand.

Feel free to drop me a comment or suggestion:

E-mail - gordon@BarnBurner.ca

On Twitter - @GordBrown_

Photo Credit: @MapleLeafs