In their first game since their league-mandated five-day break, the Leafs went into Madison Square Garden and staged arguably their most complete road win of the season, a 4-2 decision over the New York Rangers.
William Nylander, who spent part of his childhood in New York when his father Michael played for the Blueshirts, opened the scoring, one-timing a shot past Henrik Lundqvist – the goalie who scrimmaged with him as a youth.
Toronto opened up a two-goal lead when the trio of James van Riemsdyk, Mitch Marner and Tyler Bozak connected the power play. van Riemsdyk finished the play, taking a centring feed from Marner. The assist gave Marner 23 helpers on the year to lead all rookies in that category.
The Rangers finally got on the board in the second period. After Frederik Andersen stopped Ryan McDonagh with his left bad, Chris Kreider found the puck through a maze of players for his 17th goal of the year. New York continued to apply heavy pressure, nearly tying the game at the midway point when the puck hit the goal post on a Rangers power play.
But the Leafs penalty kill – ranked first in the NHL on the road – kept the Blueshirts at bay. Connor Brown restored the two-goal lead for his team when his shot from outside the faceoff circle deflected off McDonagh past a frustrated Lundqvist.
Mike Babcock’s squad’s habit of blowing two-goal leads – particularly in the third period – was quelled on this evening. Despite a strong push by the Rangers, and some lacklustre work by the pairing of Jake Gardiner and Connor Carrick in the early stages of the third period, Toronto wouldn’t break. Carrick sealed the win with a late power play goal, his second tally of the season.
J.T. Miller rounded out the scoring with a meaningless, albeit stoppable, goal past Andersen.
The Leafs next challenge is in improving upon their 2-6-1 record in the second half of back-to-back games. Toronto faces Ottawa at Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday night, a game in which Curtis McElhinney is set to make his Leafs debut between the pipes.