NEW YORK – Never mind the in-flight movie when the Leafs fly from here to Denver on the next stage of their long road trip.
How about another video review of the power play, which has gone from statistical anomaly to an area of concern? It’s latest 1-for-18 skid kept the Leafs on the bottom half of the NHL special teams chart sinking near 20%. A chance to put away the scuffling Rangers, who have one of the league’s poorest penalty kills saw four chances missed in a 4-1 loss Sunday at Madison Square Garden. It denied the Leafs a fifth straight win.
From a crazy seven-shot sequence on their first swing with the man advantage to pucks that bounced off posts and stayed out, it was a heroic game by Bulgarian-born netminder Alexandar Georgiev.
Starting in favour of Henrik Lundqvist, who has been unable to keep his save percentage against Toronto under .900, Georgiev was outstanding on his 23rd birthday.
Through two periods, Toronto’s shots with the extra man were tallied at 23 of their 39 on the way to a season high 55. Nazem Kadri and John Tavares came closest.
Playing on Saturday in Montreal, the Leafs had little left in the third period when a Jake Muzzin clear was stopped at the blueline by Adam McQuaid, who beat Garret Sparks using Auston Matthews as a screen. Kevin Hayes had an empty nettter.
Head coach Mike Babcock sounded flummoxed before the game when the power play and its measly four goals since Christmas was brought up.
The main unit features Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Nazem Kadri.
“We have five really good players and Jim (assistant coach Hiller) does a really good job with the scheme, but right now we’re pressing,” Babcock said. “We’re not executing, not on faceoffs, not on breakouts, not in the zones.
“We talked about that today, I thought Jim did a good job. If you think about our group you’d be excited to play on it. Get out there and get excited. We might need it tonight.”
That was an understatement.
It took the Rangers just 28 seconds to score, after a Morgan Rielly giveaway. No. 2 goalie Garret Sparks made two good saves before a clearing attempt also failed and the hot Mika Zibanejad put it in.
Kasperi Kapanen, blanked on seven shots in Montreal, picked off a soft cross ice pass from Tony DeAngelo and bagged his 16th of the year.
In the midst of the Leaf power play palooza, Chris Kreider hopped out of the box and into the rush to assist on Jimmy Vesey’s goal. Zach Hyman, who has shown his rougher side at times this season, went after Ranger Neal Pionk in the second period after he felt the Rangers seventh defenceman on the lineup put s cheap shot low hit on Marner.
This was the kind of game the Rangers needed on Friday when the 1994 Cup team reunited and New York lost 3-0 … Sunday’s game was NBC’s national broadcast, hyped by Matthews signing his new contract. There was an intermission feature with him profiled by former Arizona Coyote Jeremy Roenick … During a first period timeout at MSG, there was a Leaf/Canada quiz that a few Leafs seemed to
be following at the bench. One was Ranger great Harry Howell’s hometown (Hamilton) and which Leaf was the son of a former Ranger (William Nylander).