The great Yogi Berra once said it was “deja vu all over again”. The New York Rangers experienced that last night in Toronto, except this time, they were on the right side of the repeating occurrence.
Two nights after they were denied an overtime victory against a team from Canada thanks to a brilliant save in the final seconds, the Rangers earned a win thanks to a huge save by Henrik Lundqvist in the dying seconds of overtime, as the veteran tender stopped a breakaway chance by rookie sensation Auston Matthews to allow the Rangers to take down the Maple Leafs in a shootout, earning a 2-1 victory.
It was a come from behind win for the Rangers (39-19-2), who never led until the shootout portion. They peppered the Toronto (28-20-12) net with shots, tallying 38 total on the evening, but Frederik Andersen remained strong most of the night. The Rangers had the advantage for a good part of the first frame, outshooting Toronto 14-9, but a Connor Brown deflection off Nick Holden went past Lundqvist for the 1-0 Toronto lead. The Rangers again appeared to have a strong second period, earning the 11-9 shot advantage, but no goals, leaving them still behind after 40 minutes.
After killing off two penalties early in the third period, separate tripping calls by JT Miller and Rick Nash, the Rangers were finally ready to strike. It was Miller who would end up making up for his gaffe, tapping a Kevin Hayes shot past Andersen for the long-awaited goal to knot things up. When it came to the five extra minutes, the two teams exchanged opportunities, but each goalie held strong. In the ensuing shootout competition, Mats Zuccarello ended up scoring for the second consecutive shootout to put the Rangers up early. Matthews earned a modicum of revenge with a hard slap shot past Lundqvist to knot things up, but Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers the lead back before Lundqvist stopped a Nazem Kadri shot to give the Rangers the extra point. With the win, the Rangers moved into third and final automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, though new wild card Columbus still has a game in hand on them. The win also allowed the Rangers to take two of three from their yearly set with the Maple Leafs, who remain tied with Boston for the final automatic Atlantic playoff spot though they did fall to 1-7 in shootouts this season. The Rangers, on the other hand, improved to 3-2.
With this win, the Rangers will now embark on a back-to-back weekend set with Metropolitan foes, first taking on the New Jersey Devils in Newark on Saturday night (5:00, MSG).