NEW YORK, N.Y. – The New York Rangers’ pain in their home opener stretched way beyond a tough overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After rallying from a two-goal deficit in the third period on a pair of unlikely goals from Brian Boyle, the Rangers gave up the winner to Phil Kessel during an overtime power play that handed the unbeaten Maple Leafs a 4-3 victory on Friday night.
That sting wasn’t limited to just this game. Injuries to top scorer Marian Gaborik and captain Chris Drury will be felt for a whole lot longer.
Gaborik separated a shoulder in the second period and will be lost for 2-to-3 weeks. Drury, who had been out since breaking his left index finger during a training camp scrimmage, broke the finger again—in a different place—and will be sidelined for six weeks.
“If he is going to be out for any extended period of time, that just means the other 22 guys are going to have to step up,” forward Brandon Dubinsky said of Gaborik, who led the Rangers with 42 goals and 86 points last season. “I don’t think anyone else is going to step up and score 40 goals, but we just have to pick up the slack and find ways to get wins.”
Adding to the misery is the fact that another forward, Vinny Prospal, who has yet to play this season because of a knee injury, will have surgery on Tuesday and is out indefinitely.
The news is much better north of the border for the Maple Leafs, who are 4-0 for the first time since a 10-0 start in the 1993-94 season. Toronto had the worst record in the Eastern Conference last season.
A big reason for Toronto’s early success has been the play of Clarke MacArthur, who became the first player to score in each of his first four games with the Maple Leafs.
MacArthur swept in a rebound of Nikolai Kulemin’s drive that struck the post behind Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and landed tantalizingly in the crease, close to the goal line. That lifted the Maple Leafs into a 1-1 tie and started a spurt of three goals in a span of 5:46 that pushed Toronto ahead by a pair.
“I’m in the history book. It’s awesome. What an honour,” said MacArthur, who has five goals with the Maple Leafs. “Who would’ve thought that record would stand, but I’ll put my name in there for sure.”
Kessel etched his name in the overtime book just 20 seconds after Rangers defenceman Marc Staal went off for interference. He notched his second goal of the game at 3:08.
Mike Komisarek and Kessel also scored in the second, in which Toronto held a 14-5 shots advantage. The edge was 30-12 through two periods.
“We’re doing a lot of positive things,” Komisarek said. “It’s a positive sort of feeling and attitude and atmosphere in the locker room. We haven’t accomplished a lot. We’re not going to sit back and dwell on our record. We’re doing a lot of good things, but we’re still a work in progress.”
Jean-Sebastien Giguere finished with 21 saves to earn the victory. Lundqvist stopped 33 shots for the Rangers, 0-1-1 since a season-opening win at Buffalo.
Despite losing two-thirds of their top-forward line, the Rangers erased a 3-1 deficit when Boyle struck twice in a 4:09 span to tie it at 3.
Boyle, one of the most unlikely offensive threats, entered the game with only 12 career NHL goals in 109 games, but he brought New York to 3-2 at 2:10 and then tied it at 6:19—both shots coming from the right circle.
Sean Avery earned an assist on Boyle’s tying goal shortly after he left the ice following a pair of vicious slashes to the leg and foot of Komisarek. The Maple Leafs defenceman exacted some revenge, when he cross-checked Avery into the boards with 10:06 remaining in the third, but it cost him a trip to the penalty box.
“The league will take a look at the video, they’ll make their own decision,” Komisarek said of Avery’s slashes. “I don’t think that guy justifies a comment. We got the two points.”
Lundqvist made an outstretched left pad save to stop Mikhail Grabovski’s wraparound try with under 4 minutes remaining in regulation to keep the game tied. Giguere answered at the other end when he blocked Brandon Prust’s quick deflection in front with 17 seconds left inthe third.
Michal Rozsival staked the Rangers to a 1-0 lead 7:58 into the game, but the celebratory atmosphere disappeared until the third-period rally. It was the first goal of the season for the often-maligned defenceman Rozsival, who received the most boos from the home crowd during pregame introductions.
NOTES: Boyle hadn’t scored in 27 games, dating to Jan. 16. His previous two-goal game was April 4, 2009, for Los Angeles against Phoenix. … Kessel has four goals and two assists in four games. … The Rangers had won a team-record four straight home openers. … Avery had two assists, giving him 100 points with the Rangers.