Rangers edged by Maple Leafs as four-game win streak ends
TORONTO – The first time the Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs played each other this season, back on Oct. 18, the Rangers got outplayed pretty significantly, and it took some otherworldly goaltending by Igor Shesterkin for the Rangers to steal an overtime victory.
On Thursday, both teams entered the second matchup on four-game win streaks, and this time, the game was a much more evenly contested affair, with few mistakes for either side. One thing, though, was decidedly uneven: the battle in the faceoff circle was no contest.
"Faceoffs killed us,’’ Rangers center Ryan Strome said after his team lost, 2-1, at Scotiabank Arena. "It was terrible . . . it's frustrating. I know we work so hard on it and when you give a good team the puck to start, it's really hard.’’
The Rangers, who fell to 10-4-3, won just 9 of 46 faceoffs (19.5%) and Strome had a particularly tough night, losing 12 of 13. It was a jarring statistic as the Rangers, the second-worst faceoff team in the league, with a 45.6% win rate, couldn’t hang with the Leafs, the league’s second-best faceoff team, with a win rate of 55.2%.
Rangers coach Gerard Gallant, though, was actually quite positive about his team’s performance, and wasn’t willing to blame the loss on his team’s faceoff struggles.
"We were bad, but I don't think it killed us, by no means,’’ he said. "I mean, Toronto's one of the best, if not the best faceoff team in the league, so they won a lot of draws. It didn't [decide the] outcome in the game.’’
Two goals by defenseman Morgan Rielly were the difference in the game. Rielly scored on a seeing eye point shot that beat a screened Shesterkin (28 saves) at 3:41 of the first period and added a power-play goal at 10:59 of the second to put Toronto up 2-0.
Dryden Hunt’s first goal of the season – and first as a Ranger – at 3:30 of the third period got the Rangers on the board and the visitors pushed for the tying goal, but ultimately couldn’t get it. Toronto goalie Jack Campbell made 27 saves and kept the Rangers at bay.
Gallant, though, liked the Rangers’ effort.
"I thought we played pretty good game,’’ he said. "We moved the puck well. The first six minutes, I thought we backed up, and Toronto took it to us. But after that, I thought it was back and forth, even hockey game, and the scoring chances were pretty close. So no, I liked the way we played.’’
Strome, a Toronto native, seemed a little agitated throughout the game. At one point, he slammed his stick against the glass in frustration at the end of a shift, and he threw his body around recklessly, ending up with three hits, compared to having one shot on goal. He even got into a couple of confrontations with Toronto forward Michael Bunting, who dropped his gloves and tried to get after Strome in the third period, before the officials got in between them and prevented anything more.
"I just didn't like my game early on, and tried to get myself in the game,’’ Strome said. "I thought it worked. I think the third period was my best period, and the team’s in general. I probably threw my weight around more than I have all year, to try to get in there and create some turnovers and stir it up a little bit… They're good team, and sometimes you’ve got to bump them around a little bit and try to create your own space.’’
The Rangers returned home after the game and will play again Sunday. They originally were supposed to face the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon, but that game was postponed due to the Senators having a COVID outbreak on their team.