Rangers struggle against speedy Leafs

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
10:46
PM ET



The Rangers have lost only two games in regulation at Madison Square Garden this season, and both 4-2 defeats have come against the Maple Leafs.

What gives the Rangers trouble in matching up against Toronto?

Apparently, their speed.

Outskated in their last loss against the Leafs, the team's home opener on Oct. 27, the Rangers knew going into Monday's contest they were facing one of the quickest teams in the league.

But they failed to contain the Leafs' strong transition game and were lucky to come out of the first trailing only 1-0.

"I really don't know what to tell you," defenseman Dan Girardi said. "We know that they're quick starting the game, [but] I don't know why we weren't ready for their speed."

Defenseman Cody Franson's blast at 6:01 gave Toronto a 1-0 lead in the first, as the Maple Leafs had the Rangers on their heels and pinned in for much of the period.

"I think we need to be better, ourselves being quicker. I thought we were a little bit slow," defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. "We just want to win more one-on-one battles. We were losing too many battles and they had the puck in our zone and were hemming us in."

The Rangers followed up their dismal start by surrendering two goals in the second to fall behind 3-0, as league-leading scorer Phil Kessel (16g-18a-34pts) picked up two assists. Ignited by Artem Anisimov, who beat Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson glove-side from the high-slot at 13:00, and Marian Gaborik, who tallied on a 5-on-3 power play 1:28 later, the Rangers cut the Leafs' lead to one goal.

Despite multiple chances in the third period, including two power-play opportunities in the last 5:28 of play, the Rangers failed to pull even and keep their five-game winning streak alive.

"Especially going into the third, we felt we were going to tie this game up if we just continued to press on them and continued to work," captain Ryan Callahan said. "I thought we did that. I thought we took control in the third and had some really good chances. It's just a matter of finishing those chances and we didn't do that."

Despite losses to some of the league's speediest teams -- Toronto, Montreal, Florida -- coach John Tortorella said he didn't think that has been a trouble spot for the Rangers.

Only with Toronto.

"We've played some fast teams and we've won some hockey games, too," he said. "We've struggled against Toronto in that aspect of it. I thought we gathered ourselves and still found a way to climb back into it."
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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