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It may not be the most exciting brand of hockey to watch, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have found a way to consistently win tight and low-scoring contests.

On Thursday night, the team picked up a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers. Shots on goal were relatively even with Toronto holding a 30-28 edge, but the quality of chances surrendered by the Maple Leafs were low.

"I thought we were calm throughout and did a really good job," Sheldon Keefe said. "Against a team with that level of skill that they have, you're going to have to rely on your goaltender to make some saves. But I didn't think we gave up much today, in terms of odd-man rushes and such."

In fact, it was the third period where the Rangers appeared to have any chance of picking up some points. Dryden Hunt cut Toronto's 2-0 lead down to one at 3:30 and followed seconds later with a few chances at Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell. With New York pressuring Toronto, Keefe called a timeout and the team regrouped. They kept most attempts toward the outside. And in the few times they didn't, Campbell made the saves necessary to pick up a win.

"I think we're just all focused on trying to keep getting better and I think the guys are doing a phenomenal job of executing the game plan for 60 minutes," Campbell said. "We're just playing great, just really appreciate the effort from everybody."

The Maple Leafs have won 10 of their last 11 games and improved to 12-5-1 this season. It follows a four-game losing streak where the team was in a crisis of confidence and had difficulty scoring goals.

"A lot of guys early into the season were trying to jumpstart the season offensively, looking to get going and you know, that tends to change your mindset a little bit," Keefe said. "As a team, it took us a little bit to get to this place but we're in a good spot here now throughout our lineup of how we need to play, be comfortable in these situations."

The offense is still an issue. 

At 2.67 goals per game, the team ranks 23rd, far below expected for a team that boasts weapons like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander.

But the special teams are rolling on both sides of the ice.

The Leafs scored their 10th power-play goal in as many games. They rank fifth in the league at 26.5 percent. It's a straight reversal from the issues the team had last year and the earlier stretch of this season.

The penalty kill is ranked third 87.8 percent.

In a defensive win, it was fitting that Morgan Rielly scored both of Toronto's goals. 

Before Thursday's game, the Maple Leafs had just two goals from defensemen this season. They doubled that count to four with Rielly scoring both of the team's goals. It was his first multi-goal performance since Oct. 19, 2019, when he scored twice in a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins.

After going through the motions in October and snapping a four-game losing streak with a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory against Chicago Blackhawks, the team has managed to stay in sync.

Rielly attributed it to having the right mindset.

"Once you get it in your mind that you're going to play a certain way and you're just not going give up chances against, the rest kind of follows," Rielly said. "I think the work ethic has always been there, the real desire has always been there, but it's just kind of a mental hurdle and the mindset that I think we're starting to establish and that's a great sign. 



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