Leafs Begin Home-and-Home Against Rangers
RANGERS (19-15-4) at MAPLE LEAFS (21-13-4)
TV: RDS, MSG, SNET-O
Last 10: New York 5-3-2; Toronto 6-1-3
Season series: Second of three meetings and the beginning of a home-and-home that concludes Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The teams haven't met since Jan. 26, when a four-point effort by the since-departed Marian Gaborik led the Rangers to a 5-2 win in New York.
Big story: The Blueshirts have a goaltender tested in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Henrik Lundqvist, but what of the Maple Leafs, who seem destined to end a postseason drought that stretches back nearly a decade? James Reimer yielded four goals on 30 shots in his first start after Toronto elected to not deal for a veteran netminder at the trade deadline, but was brilliant Saturday in a big win over New Jersey.
Rangers: Since being shut out in back-to-back games at the end of March, New York has rebounded with a strong four-game stretch to re-establish itself in playoff position. The Rangers beat the Jets, took three of four points in a home-and-home with the Penguins and continued their three-game road trip with a 4-1 win in Carolina on Saturday. The final score is deceiving, as Lundqvist turned in a masterful 48-save performance, including 14 during a scoreless first period and 21 more in the third as the Hurricanes frantically tried to come back. Derek Stepan and Rick Nash scored power-play goals.
"With our energy level the way it was tonight, we needed him to do that," said center Brad Richards, who set up Stepan's goal. "Who knows where we would have been without him. That's why we're happy to have him."
Maple Leafs: Reimer showed what he can do Saturday in a game where Toronto probably wasn't the better team. The Maple Leafs were outshot 28-18 by the Devils, including 14-8 in the first period and 10-5 in the third, but Reimer repeatedly denied quality scoring chances to keep his team in front after Leo Komarov tipped in a Mark Fraser shot 3:49 into the game. He got a little insurance on Tyler Bozak's breakaway goal 8:02 into the third, and although David Clarkson would deny Reimer's bid for his ninth career shutout, he was still the game's first star.
"You want to beat the teams that are trying to catch you and create a little more gap," Bozak said. "We're happy with the win but we have a couple of more big games coming up with the [Rangers] and the Devils again, so it's going to be key for us to get a few more wins and keep this thing going."
Who's hot: Stepan has three goals and three assists during a four-game points streak for the Rangers. Nash has three goals and two assists in the past four games. Lundqvist has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 consecutive starts. He's 6-2-2 over that span with a .947 save percentage.
Injury report: New York remains without defenseman Marc Staal (eye), while forward J.T. Miller (wrist) is day-to-day. … Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul (upper body) missed Saturday's game in New Jersey and is day-to-day. He's currently the Maple Leafs' hottest player, with eight goals and six assists during a seven-game points streak.