Inconsistent Leafs fall to defeat against New York Rangers

Ryan Strome scored in overtime as the New York Rangers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Toronto on Saturday.

Frederik Andersen had just made an amazing save on Boo Nieves on a two-on-one but the puck went to Strome who stuffed it in at 1:48.

With another stellar performance in goal, until finally beaten in the third period, New York’s Alexandar Georgiev looked to have continued his mastery over the Maple Leafs.

Mike Babcock wasn’t too disappointed with the result. Speaking about the performance, he said: “I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. I didn’t think we got in our own way. Obviously, a disappointing way to end. I didn’t think we were good tonight as we have been in the last two games, but I still thought we had lots of opportunities.”

Trailing 1-0, the Leafs finally beat Georgiev at 8:33 of the third after a rush by Morgan Rielly opened up the Rangers defence and John Tavares fed Hyman for his 19th of the season into a wide-open net. It was Toronto’s 33rd shot on the night.

Pavel Buchnevich ended a scoreless deadlock 19 seconds into the third, he beat Hyman to the puck in a mass of bodies in front of Andersen after a Brady Skjei shot from a bad angle produced a fat rebound. It was Buchnevich’s 18th goal of the season.

Tavares was hurt later in the third, sent flying by a Marc Staal cross-check in front of goal. The star centre skated off slowly, hunched in pain after finally being helped to his feet. Staal was penalized on the play. Tavares returned for the power play, almost scoring.

Georgiev, a second-year Bulgarian-born goalie, had a career-high 55 saves in a 4-1 win over the visiting Leafs on Feb. 10 (his 23rd birthday). That included 25 power-play shots.

Mike Richter made 59 stops in an overtime tie against the Vancouver Canucks in 1991. But the 55 saves were a Madison Square Garden record by a Ranger goaltender (in just his 12th start there).

Georgiev faced 43 shots Saturday. The Rangers had 25 shots.

Toronto was coming off a 4-2 win Wednesday in Buffalo but have lost five of their last eight (3-4-1). Furthermore, the Leafs have given up the opening goal in their last six games (2-4-0).

Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Rangers have lost five straight and 11 of their last 12 (1-6-5). They have also suffered three straight road defeats.

Georgiev came into Saturday’s game with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 27 appearances this season.

He had stopped 86 of 91 shots in his two previous career appearances against the Maple Leafs.

It was his 11th start in the Rangers’ last 22 games. Three out of his last five starts had needed more than the regulation 60 minutes.

Georgiev was busy from the get-go before 19,251 at Scotiabank Arena, forced to stop a dangerous wrist shot from Auston Matthews on the Leafs first shot. Toronto outshot New York 6-1 to start.

The Rangers began to fight back, tying the shot count at 7-7. Matthews had two more good chances on a late power play in the period. Toronto outshot the Rangers 13-11 in a sloppy first period that saw New York win just 24 per cent of faceoffs.

It was more of the same in the second with Toronto outshooting the visitors 9-2 to start the period. Georgiev was rock-solid, however, with a highlight-reel pad save on Hyman from point-blank range.

The Rangers muffed a 2-on-0 chance late in the period when Mika Zibanejad lost control of the puck, allowing Andersen to grab it.

Toronto had a 24-18 edge in shots after 40 minutes and held a 59-43 edge in shot attempts.

Babcock wasn’t too concerned with the lack of goals in the team. He said: “We’ve got a number of guys who haven’t scored in a bit. The way I look at it that, usually, is that it’s usually going to change. We’ve got a number of guys that are like 0 for 11 and 0 for 10. For those guys, the puck is going to go in if you work hard.”

Again, the Leafs were without defencemen Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott.

On Monday, Toronto host Florida.

Peace,

Burke.

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