The New York Rangers improved to 7-2-2 tonight as they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by a final score of 3-1, with Mats Zuccarello registering all three goals tonight. Zuccarello's first career hat trick fueled the Rangers in a big way tonight and moved him into the team scoring lead with seven goals and two assists. The line of Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello clicked all night long as the trio each registered a point on all three of the Rangers goals.
That is certainly a good sign for the Rangers moving forward, and hopefully tonight was just the start that line needed to get going. Right from the opening puck drop, the Rangers went to work in the offensive zone and had several good chances in front of Jonathan Bernier. Finally, at the 9:41 mark, the Rangers broke the ice with Zuccarello's first goal of the game, and it came on a ridiculously gorgeous passing play.
Dan Boyle started it all off with a play along the boards to keep the puck in, and hit Rick Nash with a pass along the boards. Nash quickly found Brassard cutting down the middle of the ice, and instead of shooting, Brassard slid the puck over to Mats Zuccarello off the side of the net. Zuccarello had plenty of time to pick his spot because of the pass, and ripped a quick one-timer under the bar to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Heading into the second period, the Rangers looked to build off of their early momentum, and were handed three power play opportunities. Unfortunately, it was much of the same for the power play units, and the Rangers weren't able to generate much of anything while on the man-advantage. As a result, the Rangers held on to their 1-0 lead heading into the the third period and looked to close it out in the final 20 minutes.
In a surprising turn of events, the Leafs wound up converting just 12 seconds into the third period, but it was waived off a short time later. It was deemed that there was contact with Henrik Lundqvist, and the Maple Leafs wound up countering with a challenge in an attempt to overturn the call. After a lengthy review by the officials, the call on the ice was upheld, and the Rangers somehow caught a huge break.
About five minutes after the no goal call, Mats Zuccarello converted on a 2-on-1 to registered his second goal of the night. Derick Brassard set him up once again with a beautiful backhand saucer pass, and Zuccarello tapped the puck home on the far side. With a two goal lead early on the third period, the Rangers were in a good position to close this one out, but it wouldn't be a Rangers game without it being interesting.
With a little under two minutes remaining in regulation, Joffrey Lupul redirected Dion Phaneuf's point shot and ended Lundqvist's shutout bid. It also put pressure back on the Rangers as they had to withstand a late push by the Leafs in a one goal game. Thankfully, Ryan McDonagh was able to break up a play by Nazem Kadri, and sent Mats Zuccarello up ice with an empty net at the other end.
Zuccarello was able to cross the red line untouched, and deposited the puck into the empty net to seal the deal for the Rangers. This win gave the Rangers their second straight victory and moved them back into first place in the Metropoitan Division for the time being. The Rangers will have another extended break coming up before they welcome in the Washington Capitals this upcoming Tuesday.