Leafs 4, Rangers 3: D-zone breakdowns costly
The goal was a crusher, and if the Rangers miss the playoffs by a point, it will be long remembered.
After goals by Rick Nash, his second, and Derek Stepan, in the first half of the third period here at Air Canada Centre evened the game at 3, Phil Kessel was left all alone in front of Henrik Lundqvist for two tries at a winner just 39 seconds later.
He fanned on the first, the second slid to his forehand, and bingo, 4-3. All evening, the Leafs out-quicked the Rangers, who scrapped desperately, but couldn't find a way to tie the score again befoire the buzzer.
It's all laid out in my game story on newsday.com, and the loss sets up an ultra-important match with the Leafs at MSG on Wednesday, before Saturday's showdown in Uniondale with the Islanders, who are now tied with the Rangers at 42 points.
The Rangers also are now just two points ahead of the Devils, who they face twice in the final week of the season. As we've written numerous times, this is going down to the wire.
And a chance to catch the fifth-place Leafs, which would have required four points in two games, has gone by the boards.
The Rangers, who flew out of Toronto tonight, practice Wednesday. Just a guess, but I'm thinking team defense will be a priority.
On ice for the critical goal: Del Zotto (minus-2), Dan Girardi (minus-3), Brad Richards (minus-1) Ryane Clowe and Nash. Del Zotto, Girardi and Nash were also on for James Van Riemsdyk's opening goal from the front porch.
The Rangers have four games left at home, and five on the road. The record away from home? 7-10-2