Rangers-Maple Leafs Preview
GAME: New York Rangers (11-5-3) at Toronto Maple Leafs (9-7-2).
TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The first-place New York Rangers got a needed three-day break after winning the first three games of their road trip. New York now looks to maintain its momentum when it faces the Toronto Maple Leafs and former teammate Eric Lindros.
The Rangers appear to be playing better as their five-game trip goes on, routing the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-1 on Saturday. Jaromir Jagr scored three goals against his former team, including a pair 15 seconds apart with the teams skating 4-on-4 in the second period, to pull into a tie for the NHL goals lead with 17.
The victory was the Rangers' third overall and seventh in nine games.
New York's play away from Madison Square Garden has been a key factor in the team's resurgence in the early going this season. The Rangers have won five straight road games and are 6-3-1 on the road overall. They went 14-19-4-4 away from MSG in 2003-04.
After opening the trip with a 4-3 shootout victory over Florida on Wednesday, New York defeated Tampa Bay 5-2 before the easy win over Pittsburgh.
Crucial to the three victories was the goaltending of emerging star Henrik Lundqvist, who backstopped the wins over the Panthers and Lightning, and veteran Kevin Weekes, who made 23 saves Saturday for his fourth victory this season.
"The biggest thing now for us is the goaltending - they've been giving us a chance to win every game," said Rangers center Steve Rucchin, who scored two third-period goals against the Penguins and has three goals and three assists in five games.
New York will be facing former teammate Lindros for the first time Tuesday. Lindros played three seasons with the Rangers from 2001-04, recording 66 goals and 92 assists. He signed a one-year deal with his hometown team in August, and is tied for the Maple Leafs lead with nine goals.
After playing four times in six nights, New York should be well-rested for the matchup with the Maple Leafs, who are coming off a 5-4 overtime victory over Montreal on Saturday. Jason Allison scored the tying goal with 2:28 remaining in the third and Jeff O'Neill's power-play goal 4:13 into the extra period lifted Toronto.
The Leafs have alternated wins and losses in each of their last seven games. They haven't won two in a row since a four-game win streak from Oct. 11-20.
"We needed a win tonight," said Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe, who had a goal and an assist. "We showed a ton of character having to kill that many penalties in the first period and then it seemed like they just kept coming. To give up a goal lead and then go down one in the third, and get one late and score in overtime, it was a big win."
Because of the lockout and the Maple Leafs' season sweep of the Rangers in 2003-04, New York hasn't beaten Toronto since Jan. 13, 2003.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 14): Rangers - 25 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division. Maple Leafs - 20 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jagr, 17 goals and 28 points; Martin Straka, 17 assists; Darius Kasparaitis, 32 PIM. Maple Leafs - O'Neill and Lindros, 9 goals; McCabe, 17 assists and 23 points; Allison, 35 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 14): Rangers - Power play: 18.3 percent (22 for 120), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 88.5 percent (116 for 131), 2nd. Maple Leafs - Power play: 24.3 percent (29 for 119), 2nd. Penalty killing: 82 percent (96 for 117), 16th.
GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Lundqvist (7-2-2, 1 SO, 1.88 GAA); Weekes (4-3-1, 2.86). Maple Leafs - Ed Belfour (8-5-2, 3.59); Mikael Tellqvist (1-2-0, 3.36).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Maple Leafs, 4-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 26, 2003; Maple Leafs 6-5, OT. At New York, Mats Sundin scored 3:35 into OT to lift Toronto, which blew leads of 4-1 and 5-2 before getting the victory.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 6-3-1 on the road; Maple Leafs - 6-3-1 at home.