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Rangers conclude long homestand vs. Maple Leafs

by Tal Pinchevsky

MAPLE LEAFS (18-16-4) at RANGERS (17-18-2)


Last 10: Toronto 4-5-1; New York 3-5-2

Season series: This is the first of three games between these Original Six rivals. The home team won every matchup in 2012-13, with the New York Rangers taking two of three against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Big story: This game will conclude the Rangers' franchise record nine-game homestand, on which they have so far posted a 2-4-2 record. With two wins in its past eight games, Toronto has struggled, particularly on the road, where they have one win since Oct. 30.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Concluding a three game homestand Saturday, Toronto fell behind 3-1 in the first to the Detroit Red Wings, who they will play again Jan. 1 in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. But the Maple Leafs stormed back in the second, getting goals from Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul to tie the game.

David Clarkson's goal 8:32 into the third gave Toronto the lead, but Tomas Tatar pounced on a rebound off a Tomas Jurco shot 5:12 later to force extra time. Toronto could not score on former Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson in the shootout and Daniel Alfredsson and Pavel Datsyuk both beat Jonathan Bernier, who replaced starter James Reimer after the first, to give Detroit the win.

"When you allow a team with that much skill and talent to get ahead of you, it's hard to battle back. But I think we showed something tonight by battling back," Clarkson said. "We've got to be ready from the drop of the puck, be ready to play the way we know we can, the way we did in the second and third."

Rangers: New York gained some major momentum Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild. For the sixth straight game, they allowed the opposing team to score first, but Benoit Pouliot's power-play goal with 3:52 left in the first tied the game 1-1 and the Rangers didn't look back, scoring three more in a 4-1 win.

The win was keyed by a dominant second period in which they outshot Minnesota 17-5 and got goals from Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello, who both collected their eighth of the season.

"In the second period, that was probably our best four-lines, six-D period in a long time. I rolled four lines. Each line was playing very smart and simple. They were doing the right things with the puck," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "What we need to do now is get ready for Toronto and follow this performance up."

After wrapping up their long homestand, the Rangers will enjoy a holiday break before embarking on a five-game road trip that will end Jan. 4 against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Who's hot: Toronto defenseman Cody Franson has three points in his past four games. … Hagelin has three goals in four games for the Rangers. Pouliot has three goals and five points in his past six. Zuccarello has four points on his current three-game point streak.

Injury report: For Toronto, Dave Bolland (ankle surgery), Tyler Bozak (oblique), Colton Orr (elbow) and Trevor Smith (hand) are all out. … Defenseman Marc Staal (concussion) and right wing Ryan Callahan (knee) are out for the Rangers.

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