Looking to start the season 4-0 for the first time since the glory days of 93-94, the Toronto Maple Leafs took to Broadway to display their new found attitude. In their first game at home the New York Rangers came out with a jump, much to the delight of the MSG faithful, and captured the early lead. Not once in this young season have the Maple Leafs surrendered the first goal, however the team kept skating and used their speed to control most of the play.
Snake bitten by a sharp Henrik Lundqvist, Phil Kessel couldn’t seem to buy a goal on many chances through the first and early in the second period. Using their speed Toronto’s top unit of Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg took control and used Head Coach Ron Wilson’s advice to keep the shifts short in order to maintain control. On a nifty play from Bozak, Kessel finally found the mesh, giving the Leafs a 3-1 lead in the second.
In what turned out to be a wild third period, the Rangers used their will to remain in the game and notched their second goal, making the score 3-2 on a shot seemingly handcuffing J.S. Giguere. Positive and negative karma surrounding him, super pest Sean Avery took the lime-light as he slashed Leaf defenceman Mike Komisarek not once, but twice behind the play, resulting in a 5 on 3 power play for the Leafs.
Unable to secure the power play and put the game away, Avery hopped out of the box and set up the game tying goal on another shaky goal put passed J.S. Gigeure, sending the game to overtime.
With the play going back and forth, Rangers defenceman Marc Staal took an interference penalty, sending the Leafs power play back to work with a sour taste in their mouths. Not letting this one slip, Phil Kessel potted the game winner, his second of the game on a perfect screen by Dion Phaneuf. When asked after the game, Kessel spoke of the disappointment of the 5 on 3 chance to seal the game.
“I was not happy. You’ve got to bury a team in that situation.”
J.S. Gigeure, although looking very shaky on crucial plays in the third period, kept his team in the game with some huge saves. His positive attitude and team encouragement seemed to lift the players on and off the bench.
“We could have put our heads down, stopped skating, stopped playing,” said Giguere. “We could have found a way to lose. Instead, we found a way to win.”
The Leafs are now 4-0-0 to start a season for the first time in 17 years. Clarke MacArthur, meanwhile, nudged a loose puck over the goal line after Nik Kulemin hit the post and became the first player in the history of the Leafs to score in each of his first four games in a Toronto uniform.
“That’s awesome,” said McArthur, who has five on the season. “I’m in the record books for something!”
Perhaps a story within the game was that of Sean Avery, who seems to always be a factor when playing the Maple Leafs. Walking a tight rope, Avery could have been the goat for his team, sending the Leafs to a 5 on 3 power play with his bone-head slash on Leaf defenceman Mike Komisarek. Komisarek, who scored his first as a Leaf on a feed from Kessel in the second, was livid on a couple of counts. First, for the hack job from Avery, and then for his own retaliation penalty later.
“The league will take a look at it,” Komisarek said. “I don’t think that guy justifies a comment.”
As the Leafs continue to take positives from each game in which to build from, they will have the weekend to relish the situation they are in. With a rare Saturday night off, it will be back to work on Monday as they return to Toronto and welcome the New York Islanders to the Air Canada Centre.
About the Author
Written by RJ Emptage
Operations Manager of a retail chain in Southern Ontario (Sports Obsession). Specialize in licensed sports apparel and novelties (Visit sportsobsession.ca). Being from the Hamilton area I grew up and into a die-hard Toronto Maple Leaf Fan, and look forward to a bright blue and white future...(I know that sounds crazy doesn't it?) Love all things sports and the next best thing to playing them, is talking them!