TORONTO (CP) - Peter Horachek made it clear in scratching David Clarkson
that his contract didn't matter. On Tuesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs' interim coach made an even bigger move to ignore money and star power in favour of coaching.
Horachek slashed superstar Phil Kessel's ice time and demoted him to the fourth line in a 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers at Air Canada Centre. Kessel was on for four goals against and finished with his second-lowest ice time of the season.
Kessel played just 12:42, including some time in the third with Trevor Smith and David Booth, after being at least partially responsible for Toronto falling behind. The Leafs (23-28-4) mounted a comeback to tie the score, but Kessel was on again for Mats Zuccarello's game-winner.
It was the 12th loss in 13 games for the Leafs, who have a total of three points in that span.
Morgan Rielly scored twice and Daniel Winnik and Stephane Robidas each had a goal for the Leafs. Goaltender James Reimer stopped 34 of the 39 shots he faced in his third consecutive start.
Zuccarello finished with two goals and Dan Boyle and Kevin Hayes each had one for the Rangers (31-16-5). Cam Talbot made 29 saves on 33 shots in his fourth straight start in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist.
Last week Horachek took Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk out of their traditional white practice jerseys that denoted the first line and put them in red to take them out of their comfort zone. The message sending escalated to ice time against New York.
At the end of two periods, Bozak played the least of any Leafs player, but by the midway point of the third Richard Panik was on the first line in Kessel's spot. Kessel got a couple of other chances with the Leafs trying to tie it, but to no avail.
Notes — Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf missed his seventh straight game with a hand injury. Clarkson was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. ... Rielly's two-goal game was the first of his career.
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