It was reminiscent of last week's Los Angeles game. The Rangers were not the best team on the ice, but in the end they pulled out a victory.
Toronto came out physically early, dominating play on the boards and beating the Rangers to the loose pucks. Their physical play even extended into the crease, as several Leafs forwards crashed into goalie Henrik Lundqvist in hopes of gaining any competitive edge.
Toronto's work ethic also caused the Rangers to lose their discipline, taking three penalties in the first period. However, in the end, the Leafs couldn't capitalize on their opportunities and the first window of opportunity the Rangers had, they took it.
During four-on-four play late in the first period, a medley of Leafs crashed in the slot leaving Brandon Dubinsky to scoop up the loose puck and lead a three-on-one back the other way. Without a passing option, Dubinsky ripped a wrist shot off the near post to give the Rangers a 1 - 0 lead.
Toronto would still outshoot the Rangers 14 - 8 after one.
Dubinsky would then tally on the second Ranger goal, early in the second period. With the Rangers transitioning through the neutral zone, Dubinsky fed Marian Gaborik who played a little give-and-take with Marc Staal along the near boards in the offensive zone.
Staal then made a nifty Matteau-esque move behind the net to slide the wrap around goal between the legs of goalie Joey McDonald. Toronto continued to press, but could not sustain enough pressure. Frustrated, Viktor Stalberg took a slashing penalty a minute later and would immediately regret it.
While the Rangers were not the sharpest in moving the puck throughout the game, their power play has continued to show a lot of confidence it. Early in the power play, Vinny Prospal fed Marian Gaborik who rang a shot off the far post from the top of the crease. The puck caromed out to the point where Mike DelZotto, who had 50 friends and family in attendance, would lay into a slapshot that beat McDonald between the legs.
However, Toronto showed some fight as they came back a minute later to scramble in a goal by Ian White. Suddenly, a two-goal lead was less comforting.
Throughout the period, both teams picked up the physical play, including former Ranger Colton Orr goading Donald Brashear on several occasions. Yet, Brashear wouldn't bite and the Rangers ended the period with the 3 - 1 lead.
There is a definite trend in the Rangers second period play, as they still lack the consistent attack of the first and third. Whether it's simply a lull or a function of the other teams picking up their play, the Rangers may eventually get bit by their second period play.
The third period, however, continues to be their strongest and tonight was no exception. The Rangers caught their second wind and put the Leafs on their heels early. At 2:36, Wade Redden took a shot from the point that Enver Lisin drove home for his first goal as a Ranger.
Toronto wasn't able to muster any opportunities throughout the period and the Rangers were able to play smart defensively to secure the 4 - 1 victory.
The final shots on goal were Rangers: 28, Toronto: 35.
The Rangers return to the Garden Monday night against the San Jose Sharks. San Jose defeated the Islanders tonight 4 - 1.
Three Stars of the Game:
3. Ian White, TOR
2. Marc Staal, NYR
1. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR