NEW YORK -- After a woeful start to a nine-game homestand at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers closed out the stretch with back-to-back wins, edging the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in a shootout Monday night.
The needed victory wasn’t without its tense moments, as a much-debated call late in the game threatened to derail the Blueshirts’ winning effort.
With a 1-0 lead late in the third period, the Rangers were furious with a controversial call that allowed Nazem Kadri’s game-tying marker to stand with 1:24 in regulation. After teammate David Clarkson tried stuffing the puck in at the right post on two consecutive attempts, Kadri poked it through. The Rangers, particularly goaltender Cam Talbot, clearly felt the whistle should’ve blown the play dead, but it was not. After an official review the original call on the ice -- a good goal - was upheld.
First strike: After surrendering the first goal in seven consecutive games, the Rangers struck first against the Leafs on Monday night. Granted, it took until 7:04 of the third period that call-up J.T. Miller snapped a scoreless draw, but it wasn’t a game where either Talbot or Jonathan Bernier yielded much. Tallying his second goal of the season, Miller burst off the bench to convert a nice behind-the-net feed from Chris Kreider for a 1-0 Rangers lead with 12:56 remaining in regulation.
Surge in second: In what has become a trend recently, the Rangers dominated the second period, out-shooting the Leafs 22-5 in the middle frame. The onslaught of 22 shots against Bernier was a season-high for the Rangers. Meanwhile, Toronto struggled to apply pressure on the other end. The Leafs went 15:36 without a single shot on goal, a lengthy stretch that was finally snapped when Talbot snagged Phil Kessel’s wrister that came on the power-play. The advanced stats community should have a field day with that one. Enjoy, Randy Carlyle!
Power outage: Both teams failed to cash in on the power-play in the first 40 minutes of play. The Leafs squandered both man-up opportunities in the first period, and were stymied by an additional power-play in the second on a Rick Nash interference call that was pretty unpopular with Garden faithful. The Rangers couldn’t solve Bernier, either, as they went 0-for-4 on the PP in the second period, including 14 seconds of 5-on-3 time with less than a minute in the frame.
Road to Recovery: Vigneault seemed encouraged by Marc Staal’s progress in his pregame press briefing. The injured defenseman, who has not played since sustaining a concussion in a 4-3 OT loss to the Devils on December 7. Staal skated on his own for the third straight day on Monday and according to Vigneault had a very vigorous session. “Hopefully, we’ll get him back in the lineup real soon,” he said. Staal missed 36 games with a concussion during the 2011-12 season and sat out for more than half of the lockout-shortened 2013 season with a serious eye injury.