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Four different Leafs take out Rangers

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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TORONTO (Ticker) -- The Air Canada Centre is the wrong place for visiting teams playing with a lack of confidence.

Mikael Renberg and Tie Domi scored off turnovers 67 seconds apart in the third period, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to their eighth straight home win, 4-1 over the reeling New York Rangers.

Renberg and Domi both took advantage of bad passes by Rangers defensemen, making it 4-1 with 17:26 to play. That was all the Maple Leafs needed as they remained perfect at home since a 2-1 loss to Detroit on November 16.
Matthew Barnaby gives Darcy Tucker a ride.
Graig Abel Photography

Darius Kasparaitis and Tom Poti made the crucial mistakes for the ailing Rangers, who lost their fifth straight game.

After allowing the first two goals, New York battled back to halve its deficit. But Kasparaitis threw away a pass at his own blue line and watched Leafs captain Mats Sundin walk into the Rangers' zone.

Sundin skated through the left faceoff circle and warded off a check by Poti. Kasparaitis skated over the help Poti, leaving Renberg unchecked inside the left hashmark for a one-timer.

"That pass he gave me today, both their defensemen go to him and it leaves me wide-open," Renberg said. "I can't believe he saw me."

Renberg's 11th goal gave Toronto a 3-1 lead 87 seconds into the third period, and the Rangers never recovered.

"That's what happens when you're losing so many games," Kasparaitis said. "You lose confidence in each other, and when that happens, you make mistakes and the other teams capitalize on them."

The Maple Leafs have been doing that a lot lately, especially at the Air Canada Centre, where they have won eight straight games, one off the longest streak in franchise history set at Maple Leaf Gardens during the 1953-54 season.

"We seem to like to play at home," Renberg said. "Since we had a bad start, we know we can't give away any games. Even though we didn't play a great game, we found a way to win."

Sundin also scored for the Leafs, who are 11-4-0 following a 4-9-2 start. Most of their success has come at home, where they are 10-1-0 in their last 11 games.

"We were struggling the first month, first 15 games, at home and on the road," center Nik Antropov said. "We have to play great at home. We've got to continue to play hard and win on the road, too."

Toronto tied the longest home winning streak in the NHL this season. Ottawa won its eighth straight Saturday night, matching an earlier run by Boston. All three teams play in the Northeast Division.

The Rangers continued their free-fall, extending a losing streak to five games for the fourth consecutive season. They look to get back on track at home against San Jose on Monday.

"We dropped a lot of games in a row and I guess the only thing we can look forward to is a chance to play Monday and get things rolling in our favor," center Eric Lindros said.

The Rangers' biggest problem has been there health, or lack of it. They have missed more than 80 man games due to injuries, including ones to Pavel Bure - their best player - and Brian Leetch - their best defenseman.

Goaltender Dan Blackburn added his name to the list of walking wounded, suffering a groin injury Saturday night.

Blackburn was backed up by Mike Dunham, who was acquired Thursday, the same day the team said No. 1 goalie Mike Richter will miss the rest of the season following a concussion.

The Leafs got to Blackburn early, scoring on two of their eight shots in the first period. Sundin beat him with a slap shot from the top of the right circle and Antropov tipped home a fluttering wrister from the left point.

New York halved its deficit with 37 seconds left in the first period on Messier's power-play goal.

But Toronto put away the game early in the third. After Renberg capitalized on Kasparaitis' mistake, Domi - a former Ranger - picked off a pass near the blue line followed his own rebound off the end boards and put a backhander past Blackburn.

"I thought we generated enough chances to win the game, but we didn't clean up in the neutral zone," Lindros said. "And their transition game was real good on their last two goals."
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