NEW YORK – Nik Antropov scored a career-high three goals, chasing Henrik Lundqvist and sending the Toronto Maple Leafs to a season-high fourth straight victory, 6-2 over the slumping New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Toronto, which hadn’t won more than two in a row before this spurt, beat the Rangers in both road meetings this season, outscoring them 9-3. The Maple Leafs scored six times on 16 shots.
Matt Stajan and Mats Sundin gave Toronto a 2-0 lead in the first period on only four shots, but that advantage was gone before the intermission. Alex Steen scored late in the third, and Vesa Toskala finished with 23 saves.
Defencemen Dan Girardi and Fedor Tyutin got New York even, both scoring power-play goals off passing plays by forwards Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. It wasn’t enough to prevent the Rangers’ fourth loss in five home games.
New York was outscored 9-2 in consecutive home losses this week to Carolina and Toronto.
The Leafs regained momentum lost over the final 10 minutes of the first period and rebuilt their two-goal lead in the second despite only 10 shots through 40 minutes.
Much like their 3-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday night when they had a season-low 15 shots, the Maple Leafs were very efficient with the shots they had.
Antropov scored his first two goals in the second period to stake Toronto to a 4-2 lead.
Steve Valiquette started the third period for New York in relief of Lundqvist, who allowed four goals for the second straight game – both at home – after going 18 straight without yielding more than three.
Antropov finished off his second NHL hat trick when he made it 5-2 at 3:34 off the third, putting a shot past Valiquette’s glove.
He started the natural hat trick with a power-play goal 5:11 into the second period when a rebound of Steen’s shot bounced off Lundqvist’s blocker right to him for an easy putback that snapped broke 2-2 tie.
The Leafs’ lead grew back to two goals with deft stick work by the six-foot-six Antropov. Hal Gill, who again kept Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr in check, held Girardi’s backhanded clearing attempt in at the blue-line and moved the puck to Ian White for a shot.
Antropov got his stick on it and drove it down past Lundqvist at 16:40. The goal was originally credited to White, but was changed at the start of the third.
With Toronto leading 2-0, Gomez and Drury sparked the Rangers’ power play that has shown signs of life after a slow start. The man-advantage units clicked twice in each of the two previous games, before an 0-for-4 effort in the 4-0 loss to Carolina on Monday night.
After opening with goals on two of their first four shots, the Maple Leafs didn’t get another one in on the shaky Lundqvist for the remainder of the period. New York held a 9-0 edge after Toronto scored with 9:24 remaining in the first.
Girardi cut the Rangers’ deficit to 2-1 with 3:35 left in the first period, and Tyutin tied it 1:15 later.
Notes: Toronto’s first shot of the second period came on Mark Bell’s drive, 1:47 in. … Gill’s assist on Sundin’s goal was his 100th in the NHL. … Lundqvist last allowed four goals in consecutive games on March 27 and 31. … Agitator Sean Avery (wrist) and Toronto counterpart Darcy Tucker (back) sat out.