New York Rangers fall to the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice

Dec 12, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Calle Jarnkrok (19) celebrates his
Dec 12, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Calle Jarnkrok (19) celebrates his / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

A poor first period proved to be the undoing of the Blueshirts as the Toronto Maple Leafs came into Madison Square Garden and walked out with two points in a strong performance for the Leafs. This was the third time the Rangers got blown out in the last four games—a disappointing night as the Rangers honored their Garden of Dreams foundation.

It started poorly when the Leafs were able to score on a delayed penalty via Auston Matthews. Starting on their own end, the Leafs tried to set up a zone entry, which they finally got when William Nylander broke through the defense. He tapped it over to Matthews and Igor Shesterskin had no chance to keep that one out. It was not a good start and the Rangers were now behind the game.

This would get compiled quickly. Toronto would win a faceoff back to the blueline. Conor Timmins would float a puck on net, and it would beat everyone to double the Leafs lead. Five minutes in, and the Rangers were already looking at a multiple-goal comeback if they were going to get back into this game. Against an opponent that played last night, this was an almost unforgiveable start to proceedings as the Rangers did not live up to their own expectations.

Blake Wheeler would eventually get the Rangers back into the game. Winning an offensive zone faceoff set the Rangers up. Trying to get pucks on net, there were a few kick saves made until Wheeler scooped up the rebound out in front after the Leafs failed to clear the puck, and suddenly it was just a 2-1 game. If the Rangers were going to get back into this game, they needed more of this.

Unfortunately, they did not get it. A little more than five minutes remaining in the period, the Leafs took their two goal lead back. Shesterkin was kicking shots away trying to keep the Rangers in the game, so the Leafs captain got a little cute. Instead of just throwing the puck on the net, he aimed for Calle Jarnkrok's stick out in front. John Tavares hits the blade of Jarnkork, and the Rangers were back in a hole.

Toronto would make it a commanding lead in the game when they pulled one of the most beautiful moves a Rangers opponent has set up on the Blueshirts this season. A flip pass off the boards got the Leafs into the zone. A drop pass would allow the Leafs to have a dangerous look between the circles, but instead of shooting the puck, Auston Matthews gives it back to Mitchell Marner at the side of the Rangers net, and the Leafs had a 4-1 lead at MSG at the end of the first period.

With three minutes to go in the third, the Rangers would cut into the Leafs lead. On the powerplay, the Rangers patience would allow them to keep moving the penalty killing Leafs around until they got the magical one timer from Mika Zibanejad. A powerplay goal gave the Rangers a glimmer of hope, but they needed two more.

With a little more than a minute left, Blake Wheeler scored his second goal of the game as he walked in on Martin Jones and picked the corner. Suddenly, it was a 4-3 game and the New York Rangers were back in this game after being blown out in the first. Could they get the extra goal they needed to knot this game up at four and five themselves a fresh start?

Early in the third period, the Leafs would make it a 5-3 game. A faceoff win would get the puck back to the point for Morgan Rielly. He would slap the puck towards the net and Marner would make sure to deflect it to give the Leafs their two-goal lead back. Igor had no chance again, and the Rangers now had to find another pair to try and comeback to win on Broadway.

Auston Matthews would put the game on ice late as he danced into the offensive zone. Jacob Trouba blocked his first shot, but the attempt had gotten Shesterkin to drop, expecting a low shot. After recovering the puck, Matthews wired it over Igor's shoulder and made it a 6-3 game. It was now mission impossible for the Blueshirts.

A long clear would bounce off the boards behind the empty net of the Rangers and back out in front for David Kampf to deposit into the yawning cage and make it a 7-3 Leafs win at Madison Square Garden. Another disappointing performance saw the Rangers get destroyed in their own building as they lost to Martin Jones.