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Fredrik Sjostrom #11 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against Steve Eminger #44 of the New York Rangers during their game on October 15, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) (Al Bello/2010 Getty Images)
Fredrik Sjostrom #11 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against Steve Eminger #44 of the New York Rangers during their game on October 15, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) (Al Bello/2010 Getty Images)

David Shoalts

Leafs speed rattles Rangers Add to ...

John Tortorella, who was left shellshocked by the loss of centre Chris Drury, winger Marian Gaborik along with the overtime win by the Toronto Maple Leafs, was still able to succinctly describe how his New York Rangers were left in the dust.

"We couldn't catch 'em," the Ranger head coach said Friday night shortly after the Leafs shook off a two-goal comeback by the Rangers and beat them 4-3 in overtime. "I can't believe they are that quick. But that's what it looked like for a number of minutes there."

The Leafs used their speed and lightning-quick transition game to run their NHL record to 4-0. Time and time again, especially during a brilliant second period, the Leafs made the Rangers look flatfooted by taking the puck out of their own end in the blink of an eye, down the ice and all around Ranger goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who single-handedly prevented the Leafs from running away with the game. They scored three consecutive goals to take a 3-1 lead and outshot the Rangers 14-5.

Back with a vengeance was the Leafs' first line of centre Tyler Bozak and wingers Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg. They earned a dressing down from head coach Ron Wilson for staying on the ice too long in a mediocre performance in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Against the Rangers, they started slowly but were flying by the middle of the first period. Kessel finished with two goals, including the overtime winner, and an assist while Bozak had two assists.

The Leafs' second line of centre Mikhail Grabovski and wingers Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin were just as quick and just as effective. And the third line of Colby Armstrong, Tim Brent and Fredrik Sjostrom played such a bruising game and controlled the puck so well that Wilson elected to stick with three lines as the game wound down.

"The second period was as good a period we could ever play as a team," Wilson said. "We had a number of two-on-ones and three-on-ones. We got in on the fore-check, we counter-attacked."

Kessel's line led the charge in a 180-degree turn from the Pittsburg Penguins game when the Leafs won 4-3 but only managed 14 shots on goal.

However, the power play, which features players on the top two lines, could still use some work, even though it produced the winning goal. It squandered a couple of great opportunities in the third period, including a two-minute, five-on-three and finished the night one-for-seven.

So far, though, the other characteristic the new edition of the Leafs has shown so far is the ability to get production out of one area of their game when another is having a bad night. The example against the Rangers was Leaf goaltender J.S. Giguere, who let in two soft goals by Brian Boyle in the third period to let the Rangers get to overtime.

Giguere's peers helped him out by pulling the game out of the fire, although Wilson noted ancient Madison Square Garden, which is in the early stages of a huge renovation project, worked against his goaltender.

"Yeah, this is a tough building. I hope when they remodel they put some lights in," Wilson said. "It's dark at ice level. When the puck gets up there, it's tough to see."

One of the players who helped bail out Giguere was MacArthur, whose second-period goal was his fifth in four games. It also made him the first player in the team's 83-year history to score a goal in his first four games as a Leaf.

"That's awesome," MacArthur said. "I'm in the record book for something, right?"

Follow on Twitter: @dshoalts

 

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