December 2, 2003
GAME: New York Rangers (9-8-5-2) at Toronto Maple Leafs (12-6-5-2).
TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Toronto Maple Leafs' five-game winning streak has carried them to the top of the Northeast Division. They'll look to continue their surge and increase their lead when they close out a home-and-home set with the New York Rangers.
The Maple Leafs improved to 5-0 following a five-game winless streak (0-2-2-1) with a 4-2 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. Backup Trevor Kidd made 33 saves in his season debut following offseason shoulder surgery as the Leafs moved one point ahead of Boston for first place.
Mats Sundin scored the go-ahead goal and assisted on an insurance tally, and Tom Fitzgerald, Darcy Tucker and Mikael Renberg also scored for the Leafs, who play seven of their next 10 at home.
"We can't go home and just think because we're home we're automatically going to get wins," forward Owen Nolan said. "It's not pretty hockey but we're finding ways to win."
Especially on the road, as four of the five victories have come away from the Air Canada Centre. Sunday's win lifted the Leafs one point ahead of the Bruins, who tied Phoenix 3-3. Boston doesn't play again until Wednesday, giving Toronto a chance increase its advantage in the Northeast in Tuesday's game.
Alex Kovalev and Jan Hlavac had goals for the Rangers, whose four-game unbeaten run ended (3-0-1).
"This game was ours if we wanted it, but we didn't play well enough," New York center Bobby Holik said.
Tuesday's game could be physical after New York's Matthew Barnaby went after Nolan on Sunday, seconds after the Toronto forward got out of the penalty box for going after Rangers agitator Darius Kasparaitis.
Barnaby was called for an additional roughing penalty after goading Nolan into a fight.
"I really appreciate what Matthew did," Kasparaitis said. "That's a perfect example of playing as a team."
The Maple Leafs lost left wing Gary Roberts after the first period because of a strained muscle in his lower body. His status for Tuesday is uncertain.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 30): Rangers - 25 points, 3rd place, 9 PB, Atlantic Division. Maple Leafs - 31 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Mark Messier, 10 goals; Kovalev, 16 assists and 20 points; Chris Simon, 84 PIM. Maple Leafs - Sundin and Roberts, 8 goals; Sundin, 14 assists and 22 points; Nolan, 69 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 30): Rangers - Power play: 13.8 percent (12 for 87), 23rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.6 percent (102 for 122), 19th. Maple Leafs - Power play: 15.4 percent (20 for 130), 17th. Penalty killing: 83.5 percent (111 for 133), 20th.
GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Mike Dunham (5-7-4, 1 SO, 2.44 GAA); Jussi Markkanen (4-2-1, 2, 2.16). Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (9-8-3, 1, 2.49); Kidd (1-0-0, 2.00).
SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30; Maple Leafs, 4-2. At New York, Dunham made 23 saves in his second start in three games after missing four due to injury.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 3-5-3-0 on the road; Maple Leafs - 4-2-1-1 at home.