Brendan Shanahan, the leading shooter among active NHL players, scored his eighth of the season and the 606th of his spectacular career. He also added a shootout gem that won’t count in the points race but gave the New York Rangers a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday night.
It was a huge win for the Rangers considering they’d lost four of their previous five.
“We’re not as confident a team as we should be right now and you saw that in the third period with us on our heels a little bit,” said Shanahan. “The best way to play defence is to play the puck in the other team’s zone.
“In the third, we didn’t do enough of that.”
A goal by Toronto’s Jeff O’Neill with three minutes remaining in regulation tied it 4-4.
Five players failed to score before Shanahan got his shootout turn. The veteran left-winger, who grew up in the city’s west-end Mimico neighbourhood, skated quickly towards Andrew Raycroft, beat the Leafs goaltender with a wrist shot to the mitt side and raised his arms in celebration as family members and friends among the 19,400 spectators jumped for joy.
Scoring during regulation time for the Rangers (4-4-0) were Michael Nylander, Jason Ward and Nigel Dawes, with his first NHL goal. Jaromir Jagr had two assists.
Darcy Tucker played a complete two-way game for Toronto, scoring his team-high sixth and seventh goals and twice toppling Jagr with hard and clean hits. Alexei Ponikarovsky also scored for the Leafs (4-2-3).
“Playing for the third time in four nights, we did well to come back in the third against a well-rested team and get a point,” said Leafs captain Mats Sundin. “It was a really hard-fought point from our side.
“We still have to improve our defensive game, but the Rangers brought their ‘A’ game.”
The Leafs outshot the Rangers 38-28 through overtime. It was the seventh time in their nine games they’ve won on the shots counter.
On power plays, New York was 2-for-4 and Toronto was 1-for-5.
Sundin, Ponikarovsky and Tucker missed Toronto shootout chances, while Jagr and Nylander failed before the Rangers sent Shanahan to centre ice as the last man in the first round. He was thankful Lundqvist had given him a chance to end it.
“Our goaltender was great,” said Shanahan. “It’s always nice where, when you’re coming down the ice as the last shooter, you’re in a position to win it, as opposed to a position to extend the shootout.”
Lundqvists was relieved his job was finished for the night.
“I thought Nylander would score for us, but
when Shanny came out, I felt like he had a good chance to end it, and he did,” said the Swede.
The Leafs have been on the losing side of three shutouts.
“Over a long season, there’s a lot of points there to be had,” said Sundin. “We’ll have to get better at it.”
Dawes opened the scoring from the circle to the right of Raycroft at 5:16. The five-foot-eight Winnipeg native was second in the AHL in goals scored (35) by rookies last season.
Tucker tied it at 11:33. Karel Rachunek flubbed a pass deep in his own zone in serving the puck up to Tucker. The Czech defenceman’s latest miscue gave him with a team-worst plus-minus rating of minus-seven, which makes him vastly overpaid at US$1.8 million this season.
Ponikarovsky got a breakaway pass from Ian White and, just before he got to Lundqvist, he pulled the puck to his backhand to flip it into the top mitt-side corner of the net for a 2-1 Toronto lead at 17:56.
Shanahan tied it 2-2 with his eighth goal in eight games. With Toronto’s Brendan Bell in the penalty box, Jagr passed through the crease and Shanahan’s timing was perfect in slamming the puck past Raycroft. The goal moved Shanahan within two of Dino Ciccarelli for 13th place all-time.
Shanahan loves the freedom skaters are getting as a result of the league’s refusal to allow any obstruction.
“A few years ago, it would’ve been difficult for them to get across the red-line or the blue-line with any speed,” he said. “There would be hooks, there would be holds, there would
be guys grabbing and locking on to each other.”
Nylander deflected in a Jagr shot to put the Rangers up 3-2 on a power play at 3:28 of the second period with Wade Belak off.
A third straight power-play goal, this one by Tucker, tied it 3-3 at 6:04. Tucker positioned himself at the bottom of the circle to the left of Lundqvist, Tomas Kaberle slid a long pass, and Tucker swung at the puck as Rachunek sat in the penalty box. Hooking calls led to all three of the power-play goals.
Ward scored off a scramble in front of Raycroft to make it 4-3 Rangers at 8:55.
“Every time we got back in the game, they found a way to get a lead again,” said Sundin.
Toronto poured it on in the third and Lundqvist, with the help of his goal posts, weathered the storm – until O’Neill struck. Matt Stajan set him up in the circle to the right of Lundqvist at 17:00 of the third.
Notes: Toronto had a 34-30 hits edge . . . The Leafs won 36 of 64 faceoffs (56 per cent) . . . The Rangers committee 18 giveaways and the Leafs 17 . . . Bell rushed the puck well, and coach Paul Maurice liked what he saw from the rookie. “Brendan Bell has been a real pleasant surprise the way he’s handled the puck,” said Maurice . . . The Leafs wore their vintage sweaters for the second time this season. They’ve lost both games . . . Dawes was drafted in the not-so-long-ago times when most small forwards were shunned in the early rounds of the entry draft. The Rangers used their fifth-round choice, 149th overall, to get him in 2003. He’s the all-time goals scored leader of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, and he helped Canada win world junior gold in 2005 . . . The Ottawa Senators visit on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET).