Shades of the 2021-2022 season.
The Rangers played their most complete game of the 2022-2023 season as they cooled off a red hot Toronto Maple Leafs team with an impressive 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden last night.
The Leafs came in riding a string of 18 consecutive games with a point, but the Rangers ended that streak and extended their season best winning streak to five in a row.
“Coming into the game today, Toronto’s on a roll, the way they’re playing. By no means we shut them down ‘cause they had some great chances and Shesty [Igor Shesterkin] had to make some great saves,” Coach Gerard Gallant said after the game.
This was a terrific hockey game that was played between two good teams and left you pondering what could be if these two meet in a best of seven playoff series.
Jimmy Vesey scored two goals and Vincent Trocheck added two assists to pace the offense. The Rangers killed off three Maple Leafs’ power plays while scoring on their lone opportunity in what was a total team defensive effort.
Igor Shesterkin is certainly playing like its last season. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner made 22 saves, most of those were quality shots from one of the most talented offensive teams in the league. Shersterkin has been in net for all five games during this winning streak and he has not allowed a goal in the third period in each of those games.
Toronto’s “Fantastic Four” of William Nylander, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner was held without a point by the Rangers tenacious defense. Marner’s personal streak of securing a point in 23 consecutive games came to an end.
“We did a good job limiting their offense. Thought the penalty kill was particularly strong against them and it’s a big win for us, they were red hot and we’re keeping this thing rolling,” Vesey said.
For the first time this season, the Rangers got a goal from the second power play unit to take a 1-0 lead.
With Toronto’s Mark Giordano in the box for slashing, Filip Chytil took a pass from Kappo Kakko and was wide open in the left face off circle as he fired the puck past Maple Leafs’ goaltender Matt Murray for his seventh goal of the season.
Chytil scored the overtime winner Monday night to beat the Devils and has scored three goals in the last four games as he continues to up his game.
Later in the first, Toronto tied the game when Michael Bunting buried a rebound off a David Kampf shot but that was all the Leafs would get past Shesterkin.
Vesey’s first goal of the game snapped a 1-1 tie late in the second period.
Vesey broke into the Leafs’ zone on a two on one and deked Toronto’s J.T. Brodie, who went down early. Vesey went around him and fired the puck, top shelf, past Leafs’ goaltender Matt Murray at 15:33 of the second to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.
“I was trying to see what the defenseman’s first move was gonna be,” Vesey said. “He [Brodie] slid a little early so I thought I could get around him. Just used my instincts, lucky enough it went in, short side.”
A few minutes before the go ahead goal, there was a wild sequence where the Maple Leafs spent almost three minutes in the Rangers’ zone yet came away with two shots and no goals. Trocheck, who was on the ice for almost the entire time, broke his stick and tried to kick it out of the zone, but that didn’t work, and the Leafs maintained possession until the Rangers could finally get a clear.
“They got some line changes and we couldn’t get it out. They kept shooting and missing and fortunately for us we were able to get it out,” said Rangers’ defenseman Braden Schneider, who was also on the ice for most of that hectic sequence.
Shesterkin may not have faced an inordinate number of shots, but he had to make some big saves in the third period, including stops on Tavares and Nylander, as Toronto was pressing for the tying goal.
Matthews made his presence felt in the third period with a couple of scoring chances, including one where Artemi Panarin’s stick check kept the Leafs star, who was in deep, from potentially scoring the tying goal.
With a little over five and a half minutes left, Marner had a good chance to extend his point scoring streak, but Shesterkin was in prime position to make the save.
Vitali Kravtsov was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the past four games. Kravtsov got 11:44 of ice time and had a strong shift in the third period that led to some scoring chances.
Rangers trail the Devils by seven points for first in the Metro Division and will open a three game road trip on Saturday night in Philadelphia against the Flyers.