NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, January 4th (All times Eastern)
New York Rangers (20-20-2) at Toronto Maple Leafs (21-16-5), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Fresh off a victory in the 2014 Winter Classic, the Toronto Maple Leafs will aim for their first four-game winning streak of the season when they host the New York Rangers in Saturday's Original Six clash at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto had won two straight heading into Wednesday's outdoor game, which was hosted by the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. The Maple Leafs battled the Red Wings and snowy conditions en route to a 3-2 shootout decision in Ann Arbor.
After both teams scored once in the shootout, Tyler Bozak lit the lamp as Toronto's third and final shooter to allow the Maple Leafs to skate away with a memorable victory. Bozak skated through the middle and fired a low shot past the stick side of Jimmy Howard for the win.
James van Riemsdyk and Bozak supplied Toronto's regulation goals, while Jonathan Bernier turned aside 41-of-43 shots to allow the Leafs to jump over Detroit in the Atlantic Division standings and win their third straight. The Leafs are one point ahead of Detroit for fourth place, but are still five points behind Montreal for the third of the Atlantic's three automatic playoff berths.
"It was something really special that, as a hockey player, you're never going to forget that," Bernier said of playing in the Winter Classic.
Toronto is beginning a brief two-game homestand tonight and also will welcome the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The Leafs are 14-8-1 on home ice this season compared to a 7-8-4 mark everywhere else.
The Rangers had won four straight in Toronto before the Maple Leafs recorded a 4-3 regulation decision against the visiting Blueshirts on April 8 of last season. New York has won five of six in the series overall and posted a 2-1 shootout decision when the Leafs visited Madison Square Garden on Dec. 23.
New York had won two straight and four of five before getting slammed 5-2 in Pittsburgh on Friday. The Penguins led 4-0 after 40 minutes and were able to keep the Rangers at bay in the third period.
Mats Zuccarello picked up a goal and assist for the Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist gave up all five goals on 28 shots in defeat.
"We didn't trust each other defensively and we gave them too much space," Zuccarello admitted. "Pittsburgh is a good team and it's easy to get confused about assignments when it's not tight."
In addition to the defeat, the Rangers also lost forward Derek Dorsett to a broken left fibula suffered while blocking a shot. Dorsett, who has three goals, two assists and 103 penalty minutes in 37 games this season, is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks of action.
The Rangers fell to 2-2-0 on a five-game road trip that wraps up tonight in Toronto. New York has been better on the road than at home this season, going 12-10-0 away from the Big Apple compared to an 8-10-2 mark at Madison Square Garden.
01/04 10:38:57 ET