Bozak, Maple Leafs fend off Rangers
TORONTO — The New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs are going in different directions out of the starting gate this season.
The Maple Leafs bombarded the Rangers with five first-period goals Saturday night.
When New York came back to tie the game, Toronto answered with three more goals in the third period to earn an 8-5 victory for their second straight win to open the season with a total of 15 goals scored.
“Obviously, we started like a house on fire,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “We were really going and playing real well. You saw this kind of thing last year at times where we lose our way and we did that. But, we had enough stability and enough talent to stick with it and end up getting a win.”
The Rangers, who have lost their first two games of the season by allowing a total of 12 goals, were left frustrated by their second straight poor start to a game.
“We played pond hockey in the first, we got behind the eight-ball,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We were able to battle back in the second period there. ... There’s no doubt we need to start better, the whole group is aware of it and we’re going to get the opportunity tomorrow (against the Montreal Canadiens) to get right back at it.”
The Rangers had come back from 5-1 down to tie the game with three second-period goals.
Tyler Bozak put the Maple Leafs back into the lead at 7:17 of the third when he scored from close range on a pass from Jake Gardiner.
The Rangers challenged the goal on a possible offside but it stood. Vigneault said that after seeing a replay, it was close but the right call was made.
Toronto added power-play goals by Leo Komarov, at 9:52 and Nazem Kadri, at 18:30.
“I don’t think we can say we can keep this pace going,” Gardiner said. “That’s unheard of. I think we’re going to have to crack down defensively and keep the puck out of our own net.”
Zach Hyman scored twice for Toronto (2-0-0). Dominic Moore, Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev added one each for the Maple Leafs.
“We’ve got two wins and that’s the good part,” Maple Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk said. “I definitely think there’s room for us to improve and we’ll clean up some things and go from there.”
J.T Miller, Kevin Shattenkirk, Mika Zibanejad, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello scored for the Rangers (0-2-0). Zuccarello added three assists.
“We know what we have to do to be successful but I don’t think we’re doing that right now,” Zuccarello said. “We’ve got to defend first and go from there.”
Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist allowed five goals on 17 shots in the first period and was replaced for the second period by Ondrej Pavelec, who made his Rangers’ debut and stopped 21 shots.
Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen stopped 30 shots.
“It’s OK if one or two guys are a little rusty, or make a few mistakes,” Staal said. “But when it’s everybody that’s what’s going to happen against a team like that. I won’t say we weren’t ready. We felt good in here coming out but we just lost every puck battle, lost every race, we were just being out-competed. That’s what it came down to and they filled the net.”
The Maple Leafs led 5-1 in the first period before Shattenkirk scored on a power play at 19:37 to trim the lead to 5-2.
Moore, who played 322 career games in two stints with the Rangers, opened the scoring at 2:30 of the first period on a deflection.
New York tied it when Miller jammed home a rebound at 3:42.
The Leafs regained the lead at 5:34 when Hyman took advantage of a Rangers giveaway. Gardiner scored a power-play goal on a solo effort from the Toronto blue line at 11:07. Zaitsev, at 13:59, and Hyman, at 17:19, added to the lead.
The Rangers cut the lead to 5-3 at 7:43 of the second period on a power-play goal by Zibanejad, his third of the season.
Staal scored at 12:14 and Zuccarello tied the game at 14:06 of the second.
“I just went in and told them what we needed to do to win the game,” Babcock said. “I didn’t talk a whole lot about 5-5 or anything like that. There was a period coming up, we couldn’t do anything about the period that had just finished.”
NOTES: C Eric Fehr and D Andreas Borgman did not dress for the game Saturday after playing in the season opener Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets. C Dominic Moore and D Calle Rosen took their spots in the lineup against the Rangers, whose lineup was unchanged from their season opener Thursday. ... The Rangers are home to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday when G Ondrej Pavelec is scheduled to make his first start of the season. He entered the game Saturday in the second period and Vigneault said after game it had not been decided if Pavelec would still start Sunday. ... The Maple Leafs play their next game Monday at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.