Phil Kessel scored on the power play three minutes into overtime to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers, spoiling their home opener on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Kessel had two goals (his third and fourth) and an assist, and was Toronto’s best player after a poor showing in his last game, Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Toronto’s top line of Tyler Bozak, Kessel, and Kris Versteeg was flying all night, and Bozak picked up two assists, on each of Kessel’s goals.
Meanwhile, Clarke MacArthur continued his amazing scoring streak to start the season, notching his league-leading fifth goal in just four games.
The Leafs staved off a third period comeback by the Rangers, led by young defenceman Brian Boyle, who scored twice to tie things at three.
Sean Avery was also a factor in the game, picking up two assists as well as a five-minute major in the third, an infraction that almost cost the Rangers the single point.
Avery took a vicious swing at Mike Komisarek’s ankle after a whistle, drawing the call.
New York killed off the penalty, and it was almost a late-game collapse reminiscent of last season for Toronto, who dominated the first two periods only to see it go to overtime in the end.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere looked shaky on both of Boyle’s goals in the third, after only facing 12 shots coming into the period. However, he made a couple key saves in the closing minutes, and in overtime, to give his team a chance to win.
Giguere made 21 saves, as the Leafs outshot the Rangers 38-24.
Henrik Lundqvist was brilliant in a losing cause, but the Rangers suffered from the loss of both Chris Drury and Marion Gaborik who both left the game with injuries in the second.
With the win, Toronto is now 4-0 this season, its best start since 1993. The Rangers fall to 1-1-1.
Special teams played a big part in the game, as Marc Staal’s interference call in the extra period proved costly for the Rangers. Toronto’s power play was only one-for-eight, but delivered the winning goal.
The Leafs penalty kill was also key, as it looked very strong going seven-for-seven.
Leafs dominate early
Toronto was dominant early going, but the Rangers actually opened the scoring despite being badly outplayed.
Dion Phaneuf and Francois Beauchemin both got caught behind their net, and were outmuscled by Sean Avery and Ruslan Fedotenko. Fedotenko fed the puck to Michael Rozsival at the point, went to the net, and screened Giguere.
Toronto’s goalie sat helplessly on the goal-line, as Rozsival’s weak wrist shot dipped into the back of the net. It was his first of the year.
The Maple Leafs dominated the rest of the period, outshooting the Rangers 16-7, but were unable to solve Lundqvist. He made several solid stops as the Leafs’ top two lines were buzzing around the New York goal.
Toronto came out and scored three goals in eight minutes to start the second.
MacArthur picked up his fifth at 2:04, tipping in a Nikolai Kulemin shot, right after a penalty to Drury had ended. Luke Schenn picked up an assist feeding the puck to Kulemin in the slot.
Komisarek scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf at 4:57. The Leafs had just killed off a boarding penalty to Colby Armstrong, who injured Gaborik with a hit from behind.
After coming up the ice on a pass from Kessel, Komisarek waited a second inside the Rangers’ blue line. He snapped a wrist shot through traffic in front of Lundqvist.
Minutes later, Bozak broke free up ice with one man back, stopped up, and delivered a pass to a streaking Kessel for a tap in.
Toronto headed to the third with a 3-1 lead, outshooting New York 30-12.
But the Rangers came out of the dressing room a different team to start the final frame.
Boyle struck twice in the first seven minutes, and suddenly the game was a brand new one.
He beat Giguere high to the glove side on a harmless looking rush two minutes into the period. He was one-on-two, and just inside the blue line when he let a wrist shot go.
Then at 6:19, Giguere lost sight of the puck behind his net, and Avery quickly centered it before the goaltender could find it. He stood again helplessly on the goal-line, looking all over for the puck as Boyle snapped another shot by him.
New York continued to pressure, but the Leafs took advantage of Ranger penalties to pull out the win.
They could have won the game in regulation on Avery’s cheap shot, as it set up up a five-on-three. However, Kessel made no mistake in overtime.
He took advantage of a Dion Phaneuf screen, as the big defenceman had travelled down low with the man advantage. Kessel snapped his patented wrist shot by Ludqvist, who couldn’t see anything but the big three on Phaneuf’s back.
The Leafs will now travel home with the best record in the NHL. hey host the New York Islanders on Monday, and tangle with the Rangers again, in Toronto on Wednesday.