Following two straight road victories just before their “bye week”, it was quick to forget that the New York Rangers had put up a lifeless performance in their last game at Madison Square Garden against the Buffalo Sabres.
They put up another one in their return from sabbatical on Friday night against another Atlantic Division opponent, the Toronto Maple Leafs, dropping a 4-2 decision.
The Rangers (28-14-1) were playing a Toronto team also playing for the first time in six days, but they were the only ones having trouble in their first game back. The harmful trend of allowing opposing goals prior to the first media timeout struck again, as William Nylander, son of ex-Ranger Michael, scored just before five minutes had past for the first goal of the game. The Rangers had a little more sustained pressure afterwards, but Toronto scored again before the period ended as James van Riemsdyk scored in the late stages of a Brandon Pirri penalty.
The Rangers were able to cut the lead in half midway through the second, as Chris Kreider scored his 17th of the season, but further hacks into the lead were prevented by strong defensive work by the Maple Leafs (19-13-8), as well as good goaltending by Frederick Andersen. Connor Brown put in his 10th before the second ended, before Andersen held off a third period Rangers onslaught in the third. Toronto was outscored 14-7 by the Rangers in the final frame, but the scored on the power play again, with Connor Carrick scoring on the power play for the 4-1 lead.
In a lost evening, JT Miller was able to make personal history, scoring the 50th goal of his NHL career. With an assist on that goal, Pavel Buchnevich, playing his first game since November 12, continued a five-game points streak.
In addition to the two power play goals allowed, the Rangers’ own power play unit endured a rough evening, going 0-for-6.
Prior to the game, the Rangers said goodbye to one of their biggest fans, Detective Steven McDonald. Left a quadriplegic after being shot in the line of duty in 1986, McDonald passed away of a heart attack at 59 earlier this week due to a heart attack. Annually commemorated by the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, currently held by Mats Zuccarello, McDonald is survived by his wife Patti and son Connor, who followed his father’s footsteps and joined the NYPD as well. Both Patti and Connor were in attendance last night, and were given a standing ovation.
The Rangers will now embark on a quick trip to Canada, taking on Montreal on Saturday night (7 PM, MSG)