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article imageMaple Leafs goalie duo feel the power of the Rangers Special

By Dave Pitman     Jan 4, 2014 in Sports
Toronto - Winners of their last three games prior to Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to keep up their winning ways in 2014, falling to the New York Rangers in an ugly fashion at the Air Canada Centre Saturday night.
Getting away from the lights and cameras of HBO didn't seem to help the Toronto Maple Leafs. Back indoors and in front of a much smaller crowd, although still a packed house, the Leafs players failed to keep up with the New York Rangers, who were finishing off a back-to-back, having lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 just one night earlier.
It was a performance that left Joffrey Lupul with a bitter taste in his mouth.
"It's embarrassing." Lupul told media in the dressing room post-game, "Getting boo'ed off the ice in the first period, second period, and the end of the game and we deserved it."
Earlier in the day Coach Randy Carlyle had media buzzing when he made a comment on his goaltender's status. When asked if he considered Bernier to be his #1 goaltender, Carlyle wasn't ready to say that — yet.
“There are times when you look it and say, ‘Hey, is this the time?’” Carlyle said Saturday morning, “Well I’m not ready quite yet to say that he’s this or he’s that.”
Bernier would get the start again Saturday night, his fifth consecutive. He entered the game with a fantastic 1.85 GAA and .950 SV% in his career against the Rangers. Cam Talbot would counter, making it a re-match of their previous game just a few weeks prior.
Historically, the Maple Leafs have played well when they host the Rangers at the Air Canada Centre. All time, the Leafs are 165-90-39-3 while playing the Rangers at home. The Rangers, however, have stepped it up as of late, beating Toronto 11 times in their last 16 meetings. The trend would continue in New York's favour once again.
The action looked promising as the puck dropped. James Van Riemsdyk led the Leafs down the left side for a great scoring chance but Cam Talbot stood tall. The Rangers countered instantly as Chris Kreider turned on the jets and beat the Leafs down the wing and put a move on Bernier. Bernier made the save but could not see the rebound as the puck sat in his crease, right in front of a wide open net. Luckily for Bernier, The Rangers players couldn't see the puck either as the Leafs dodged a bullet. Any thought that luck might have been on Toronto's side lingered for only a few short minutes. The Rangers would dominate the second half of the period and Dan Girardi would open the scoring from the Blue line. Things went from bad to worse for the Maple Leafs when David Clarkson blocked a shot off the foot and Carl Gunnarsson fell awkwardly on his shoulder. Both would leave the game and not return. Former Leaf Dominic Moore would squeeze a shot through the legs of Bernier to make it 2-0 before the period ended with the Rangers out-shooting the Leafs 18-7.
The momentum stayed with one team through the second period. Midway through the frame after peppering the Maple Leafs with 28 shots, Benoit Pouliot would put the Rangers up 3-0 off a great pass from Marc Staal. Shortly after, Chris Kreider got his revenge on Bernier's great save in the first period and slid the puck past him to make it 4-0. The Rangers would not let up. Just a couple of minutes later, Dominic Moore scored his second of the game to lift the Rangers to a five-goal lead. Coach Carlyle had seen enough at this point and Bernier's day was done. James Reimer entered the game and immediately got a push from Leafs veteran forward Joffrey Lupul who broke Talbot's shutout to make it 5-1. The period would end with the Rangers out-shooting Toronto 34-18.
The third period would provide much of the same as the first two. The Rangers confidently controlled the puck and continued to throw shots on net, a strategy that clearly was working. Brad Richards beat James Reimer through the legs on a goal that looked a lot like Dominic Moore's first period goal. Clearly frustrated, Leafs Captain Dion Phaneuf dropped the gloves with Rangers forward Chris Kreider. The fight looked more like a wrestling match and it didn't last very long. The bout failed to spark any kind of momentum for the Leafs and shortly after, Brian Boyle deflected a Michael Del Zotto shot from the point past Reimer to make the score 7-1. The Rangers would add one more, but had it called back due to goaltender interference before the final buzzer sounded. The Maple Leafs exited the ice to a chorus of boo's from the Toronto home crowd.
Bernier's start was his 25th of the season, which equals the the number of starts he had with the Kings in the last 2 seasons combined. With the teams recent success, Bernier felt the group just had an off-day.
"As a team we didn't come prepared…" Jonathan Bernier told reporters after the game. "We just need to turn the page, it's one game and we've got a lot of games to go."
In the wake of Carlyle's comments earlier in the day, neither of his goalies were able to perform Saturday night. But Coach Carlyle wasn't about to criticize his net-minders play.
"We left our goaltenders high and dry." Carlyle stood at the podium post-game and told reporters, "We didn't check. They had freedom to roam the ice, we didn't engage." When asked how he felt about the teams performance, Carlyle was brief, "I'm surprised. I expect a lot more from our group. Back to the drawing board."
At the midway point of the season, The Maple Leafs entered the game leading the NHL in Team Hits (1423) and tied for first Fighting Majors (28). Tonight's Leaf team, however, looked passive and unwilling to battle. It was a performance that cannot be repeated if the Leafs want a chance at the post-season. They currently sit sixth place in the Eastern conference, one point ahead of Philadelphia and one behind Detroit. They will host the Islanders at home Tuesday night.
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