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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Rangers - 02/23/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers Thursday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

Video: NYR@TOR: Brown buries fortuitous deflection in front

1. Brown puts Leafs ahead first, Andersen keeps them that way. The Leafs were riding a two-game win streak heading into Thursday's action, and despite being outshot 14-9 by the Rangers through the first 20 minutes of action, Toronto took a one-goal lead into the intermission. They had two people to thank for that: first, winger Connor Brown, who netted his 15th goal of the year at 10:56 of the frame; and secondly, goaltender Frederik Andersen, who was outstanding in keeping the Blueshirts off the scoreboard.

Andersen made several terrific stops in the first, but the one that caused the ACC crowd to erupt in applause came after Brown's goal and with the Leafs on a power play: two Rangers broke in on a shorthanded 2-on-1, and Andersen jutted out his left pad to stop winger and former Leaf Michael Grabner from putting the puck in what was, for a brief second, an open net. It was one of Andersen's best saves in a Toronto uniform, and it signalled that the veteran was as sharp and focused as he's been since the Buds acquired him from Anaheim in the summer.

Video: NYR@TOR: Andersen robs Grabner with his left pad

2. Toronto's defence clamps down in scoreless second period. Toronto hasn't been what you'd refer to as a tight defensive unit of late, surrendering 15 goals in three of their past four games. That said, despite the Rangers using their speed and cycle game to their advantage Thursday, the Leafs did an excellent job - particularly in the second frame - of getting sticks in the Blueshirts' shooting lanes and clogging up the middle of the ice in their zone. 

As a result, and despite the Rangers having their share of chances, Toronto held the visitors off the scoreboard through the first 50 minutes of the game and allowed Andersen a clear view of most shots.

3. Rangers keep up pressure, score tying goal at end of power play. The Rangers outshot the Leafs 25-18 through two periods and did not relent in the third, forcing Toronto into taking their second penalty of the night at the 8:48 mark of the frame. The Buds managed to kill off that one, but one second after it expired, winger J.T. Miller knocked in a shot from the goal line to score his 19th of the year and even the score at a goal apiece.

The Rangers have been shut out just twice this year, so the Leafs were well-aware they'd need more than a goal to pull out a victory. The good news is they were still tied with the Blueshirts two-thirds of the way through the final regulation period and had a shot at beating a team not far removed from a six-game win streak.

Video: NYR@TOR: Andersen stones Nash in tight with pad save

4. Goalies stand out to send game to extra time. Both Andersen and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist were solid throughout the night, and though Lundqvist needed a little help from the post late in the third to stop blueliner Morgan Rielly from scoring, he turned aside all but one of Toronto's 31 shots, and Andersen stopped 32 of 33 Rangers shots to send the game to overtime.

That overtime period was about as thrilling as the ACC has seen in the history of the building, with both teams having glorious chances to end it. But again, Lundqvist and Andersen were up to the challenge, and the contest went to the shootout to decide the victor.

5. Leafs come up short in shootout, but gain valuable standings point. The Leafs shot first in the shootout, with William Nylander failing to score on Lundqvist. Winger Mats Zuccarello scored on the Rangers' first chance, but Auston Matthews evened it up on his chance. Unfortunately for Leafs Nation, centre Mike Zibanejad scored and Toronto's Nazem Kadri was stopped by Lundqvist to give the Rangers the win.

Despite Toronto's shootout record falling to 1-7 with the defeat, the Leafs earned a valuable point in the standings to help them in their chase for a playoff spot. They'll finish off their homestand Saturday against the arch-rival Canadiens, who fell to the Islanders Thursday and sit four points ahead of the Leafs, with Toronto holding one game in hand. Needless to say, that game will be as crucial and passionately-contested as any game this season.

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