The Leafs generated 45 shots on net against New York on Saturday but lost a hard-fought, defensive battle in overtime.
LEAFS AND RANGERS HOLD EACH OTHER OFF THE SCORESHEET THROUGH FIRST 20 MINUTES
The Maple Leafs were seeking to build a two-game win streak with a victory over the Rangers, a team that had just one win in its past dozen games. And Toronto came out of the gate strongly in the first half of the first period, getting high-quality scoring chances on Blueshirts goaltender Alexandar Georgiev.
Unfortunately, none of Toronto's 13 shots in the first frame beat Georgiev, but when the Rangers pushed back at the Leafs in the second half of the first period, Frederik Andersen turned aside all 11 shots he faced. The Leafs' defensive structure was improved from recent games, and Andersen's confidence was on full display in this one.
SECOND PERIOD MUCH THE SAME AS FIRST: NO GOALS AT EITHER END
The Leafs continued to play well in the middle period, keeping much of the play in the Rangers' zone and coming close to scoring on numerous occasions. However, Georgiev was sharp for the visitors, and he stopped all 10 Toronto shots he saw in the second frame.
Meanwhile, the Leafs held the Rangers to only seven shots in the second period, and they deserved to be proud of their defensive effort through 40 minutes of action.
RANGERS SCORE GAME'S FIRST GOAL TO START THIRD, BUT HYMAN EVENS IT UP MIDWAY THROUGH FRAME
The Leafs had surrendered the game's first goal in six straight games coming into Saturday's action, and that streak reached seven games when the Rangers broke the scoreless tie at the 19-second mark of the third period. Nevertheless, Toronto wasn't dissuaded by the goal. The Leafs pressured the RANGERS constantly until John Tavares grabbed the rebound off a Morgan Rielly shot and delivered a perfect backhand pass to winger Zach Hyman, who fired the puck into an open net for his 19th goal of the season and a tie game at the 8:33 mark:
Video: NYR@TOR: Hyman finishes no-look feed from Tavares
Hyman's goal sent the crowd at Scotiabank Arena into a roar of joy, and it pushed the Leafs into an even more energetic approach the rest of the way: Toronto outshot the Blueshirts 15-7 through the first 16 minutes of the third - and for a total of 43-25 through three periods - and came close to getting the go-ahead marker many times.
LEAFS HAVE CHANCES TO END IT IN OVERTIME, BUT RANGERS WIN
The Leafs had more chances to win the game in overtime, but couldn't find the precision it takes to score in high-pressure situations, and after they nearly ended it in the Rangers' zone, the Blueshirts came back the other way on a 2-on-1 rush. Andersen made a spectacular left pad save to keep the play alive, but Rangers winger Ryan Strome poked the game-winner past him with 3:12 left in OT.
The Leafs will turn their attention on their next opponent, the Florida Panthers. With another strong defensive effort tonight, the Leafs will continue to focus on scoring first and removing the need to chase the game as things tighten up and teams clamp down in their own end.