“It’s Deja Vu all over again” said Yogi Berra famously and tonight the Rangers must have felt that way as they outplayed an over matched Toronto Maple Leafs squad for second time this week en route to their seventh straight victory.
The Leafs battled early and showed some fight but couldn’t solve Henrik Lundqvist on numerous power plays in the first period. Brandon Dubinsky would give the Rangers the lead late in the period as he snapped a wrist shot past Joey McDonald on a 3-on-1 rush. The Rangers came out strong early in the second (which had been their problem period this season) and built a 3-0 lead on goals by Michael Del Zotto (a power play goal) and Marc Staal. Staal’s goal was a beauty as he won the puck down low and beat the defender to wrap the shot around the net and past McDonald. The Rangers would continue to take too many penalties throughout the second but Lundqvist was solid and kept the Leafs off the board with an array of acrobatic stops. The Leafs finally broke through after the defense couldn’t clear a rebound from in front (following 3 saves by Henrik) and Ian White cashed in.
The third period was pretty uneventful as the Blueshirts got an early tally from Enver Lisin and the Leafs just seemed to give up on making a comeback. The Rangers controlled play for the remainder of the period and were able to skate away with another win.
Thumbs Up- Michael Del Zotto, playing in front of 70 friends and family in his hometown, had a very strong game with a power play goal and numerous pretty passes to spring his teammates on some quality chances. Donald Brashear played a smart game, not getting baited into any fights by Colton Orr or Michael Rosehill. Marian Gaborik didn’t score tonight but he was all over the ice and put pressure on the D to make plays. Enver Lisin, who could have sulked after his move to the fourth line, played hard and eventually scored his first goal of the season.
Thumbs Down- I don’t often watch a game a think “Where’s Callahan?” but tonight that thought entered my head a few times. Michal Roszival wasn’t horrible but was caught out of position a few times and was a non factor once again on the offensive end. The Christopher Higgins goal watch now stands at 8 games.
Three Stars 3- Sean Avery- Over the last few games, many observers wondered aloud whether Avery had lost his edge while trying to play a smarter game which was preached to him by Coach Torts since last season’s benching in Washington. Watching tonight, it’s clear Avery can still be effective without going overboard. He was active all over the ice, played a physical game and got in the ears of the Leafs early and often. He didn’t factor in the scoring but definitely had an impact on the way the game was played tonight.
2-Marc Staal- Staal played big tonight at both ends. His goal in the second period was a thing of beauty as he used his size to outmuscle a defender and his soft hands to put it past the goalie. On the other end, he played a physical contest which included his absolutely hammering Jason Blake late in the third to put an exclamation point on a very strong performance.
1- Henrik Lundqvist- The “King” was the best player on the ice tonight for either team and played his best when the game was close and his team put him in a position to decide the game with their parade of penalties. His stops on Jason Blake coming in all alone on the breakaway and rebound stop of Lee Stempniak were brilliant and let the Leafs know early on they would be in for a long night.
The Rangers will attempt to stretch their winning streak to eight games when they return to Madison Square Garden monday night to face Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks.