Maple Leafs streaks stopped on Broadway as visitors fall to Rangers
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NEW YORK — The Maple Leafs are on the cusp of a team record without a Christmas-inspired miracle on March 34
Street to extend Mitch Marner’s points streak.
Both Marner’s streak of 23 games by a goal or an assist and Toronto’s attempt to equal the club’s record of 16 games by at least a point fell 3-1 to Rangers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
The Leafs struggled with stringing passes in the first half and were well on their way to nearly 30 freebies, including a bunch from Auston Matthews.
New York’s Filip Chytil opened the scoring with Mark Giordano in the box. Toronto broke through later in the first period, Conor Timmins adding to his three assists against the Ducks on Tuesday and setting up David Kampf and, in turn, Michael Bunting for a tap-in. That extended Bunting’s scoring streak to 10 games, seven assists on the start and goals in the last three.
Marner and the top-Leafs were out for an extended shift in the middle period, limiting New York in more than a minute in which he nearly scored both a goal and an assist. But then came a second and third shaky power play of the night with no real chances, bracketed by a green goal from Jimmy Vesey after a faulty center pass from Matthews.
Vesey, the well-travelled former Leaf, patiently dodged a slipping defender and went to the short side to Matt Murray before adding an empty netter.
Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe altered some of his lines in hopes of scoring an equaliser, but lost a defender after Timothy Liljegren was off the bench in the final third.
Marner attempted to match or surpass Patrick Kane’s mark of 26 games by one goal or one assist, the most by an active NHLer. The team points mark ends at 12-0-3, 19 years after Pat Quinn’s team hit 14-1-1.
“We don’t know anything like that,” said Marner before the game. “It’s pretty cool, but we’ll see, just make sure we do things right.”
Keefe also didn’t want to get carried away with praise for the pregame streak.
“You’re not striving for some milestone or record or anything, you’re trying to give yourself a chance to win every game you play. Basically, as a coach, I believe that we can win every game, so that’s how I do it, no matter who’s on or off the line-up or schedule. Today is just another day.”
Rangers, meanwhile, are withdrawing from an early-season funk, winners of five straight games and while they don’t seem particularly dominant in those games, it has given manager Gerard Gallant some breathing room.
Keefe made no roster changes for Rangers other than Murray and fielded Ilya Samsonov to face Alex Ovechkin and his old team in Washington on Saturday.
Ahead of Thursday’s game, Gallant had an interesting take on the Leafs, aside from the obvious fact that goalies and goalscorers got them this far in November and December.
“I think their team is tired of losing so they want to keep doing what they are doing. You look really confident. They lost some really good defenders, you thought they would fall a bit but they didn’t.”
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