Adorned in their white jerseys at home on the first night of HBO's 24/7 filming, the New York Rangers snapped their five-game winning streak, losing 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who wore their blue third jerseys. The Leafs had just lost two straight to the Boston Bruins after three consecutive big wins, and came up big against a better team.
The Leafs quickly went on top, taking the first goal from Cody Franson via a dive from the point for the 1-0 lead in the first period. Toronto proceeded to gain a three-goal lead even faster in the second period with two goals in less than two minutes via Tim Connolly and Joffrey Lupul, the latter coming on Toronto's second-ranked power play unit.
However, the second half of the match began to go the Rangers' way, as New York scored two quick goals of their own, both coming on well-crafted plays tight on the net. Almost as fast as the Leafs went up 3-0 in the game, the Rangers brought it to a one-goal match at 3-2 from Artem Anisimov and a power play marker by Marian Gaborik.
The game was rather neutral in flow, although the Rangers, as expected, beat up on the Leafs physically, keeping them away from earning opportunities to score. Also, Lundqvist gave a strong effort to give his offense a chance to tie. Yet, with about five seconds left, Leafs' David Steckel earned his fifth goal of the year on an empty net, bringing the final score to 4-2.
How did all of this happen? The Leafs score the third-most goals in the first period while the Rangers notch the second-least in the initial period (Toronto +4 over New York's -2). After the first period, though, the Rangers dominate play. Jonas Gustavsson, after James Reimer started Saturday night, put on a solid performance against New York's 32 shots and kept the Rangers from getting much of anything else. He was on top of his game, covering up for plays like this:
After losing 6-3 at home and 4-1 on the road against the NHL's hottest team in the Bruins, the Maple Leafs had a lot riding on this game. The Leafs started off hot and had been looking to earn respect on top of the Northwest Division. So, with the need to focus on their own play -- especially defensively and in net -- Toronto had to perform Monday against one of the NHL's better and also-hot teams, and they did so against the Rangers, who had won seven straight at home and five straight overall.
The Rangers, on the other hand, will have a lot of material from tonight's game for the start of the Road to the Winter Classic. Via ProHockeyTalk, here's the preview of the series: