Recap: Rangers Comeback Spoiled by Shootout Loss

Recap: Rangers Comeback Spoiled by Shootout Loss
Mar. 2, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad (93) bodychecks Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares (91) as defenseman K’Andre Miller (79) pursues the puck in the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Original six hockey, Hockey Night In Canada, first meeting of Matt Rempe and Ryan Reaves, two of the league’s hottest teams as of late, surely we were in for quite the ride and boy were we. The Rangers may have missed out on the extra point but it was certainly a roller coaster of a night in a game that had a little bit of everything.

1st Period:

Lots of build up going into this one and the teams did not disappoint as they got right into a good pace of play. The Leafs had a couple of strong chances earlier in the period as the puck bounced over the blade of Auston Matthews who was wide open for a one timer in the high slot on one chance. On a couple of other occasions, the puck took a bounce of a Rangers defender that either resulted in the puck going just wide of the net or required a spry save from Igor Shesterkin.

The Leafs would end up receiving the first power play of the night as Jacob Trouba was sent off for high sticking Wiliam Nylander just about eight minutes into the game. The Rangers penalty killers would certainly have their work cut out for them as Toronto’s power play is as lethal as it gets in the league and they did a solid job of fighting them off for those two minutes. Shesterkin came up with another huge save to keep his team in it as he positioned himself perfectly to take away the angle on a point-blank chance for Matthew Knies who was all alone in front at the end of an incredible passing play from that top line.

Just a couple of minutes later, Alexis Lafrenière let an absolute snipe of a shot go in the slot that hit a post and went in-and-out of the net so quickly, almost no one even realized it was a goal. Of course, both Lafrenière and the official knew it which resulted in the play being blown dead and upon a quick discussion, was deemed a good goal.

Soon after the goal, we had our first encounter between Matt Rempe and former friend Ryan Reaves in a 4th line battle in the Rangers end of the ice. It looked as though on the way to their respective benches, Reaves asked Rempe if he wanted one but given the Rangers just took the lead, nothing came of it which was likely for the best.

With less than five minutes to go, Jimmy Vesey made a great defensive play at the Rangers blue line which intercepted a pass attempt from TJ Brodie to send Vesey on a breakaway. Ilya Samsonov made an incredible save on the Rangers forward but Vesey kept the play going which ended up drawing Toronto’s first penalty of the night. Timothy Liljegren was called for tripping Zibanejad in front of the net but it wouldn’t do much for the Rangers. Just 15 seconds into the man advantage, Vincent Trocheck collided with Calle Jarnkrok at center ice which earned him two minutes for interference.

With six seconds to go as the teams skated 4-on-4, Simon Benoit was sent off for tripping up Barclay Goodrow in the neutral zone. This gave the Rangers an extremely brief 4-on-3 and then soon enough a proper 5-on-4 power play. Vincent Trocheck would have the best chance as he let a one-timer go that looked as close to a goal as a shot can get, hitting two posts in the process. Chris Kreider came close to tucking in the rebound but the Leafs were able to fight it off as they did the remaining seconds of the period.

A bit of a weird opening period in the sense that it wasn’t an overly excitable one but there was still plenty of action to keep both sides busy. Shots were 12-10 in favor of Toronto after the first twenty. Not a bad period by any means for New York but there was definitely room for them to be better in their own end as well as in transition.

2nd Period:

It was a slower start to the second but just four minutes in, Mitch Marner would beat Shesterkin coming out of the corner off a face-off after whiffing on his original shot to make it a 1-1 game.

The Rangers were quick to answer as just two minutes later, an outstanding passing play sent the puck from Panarin over to Lafrenière in the slot, who set up Trocheck for the quick shot that found its way through Samsonov to regain the lead, 2-1.

About a minute away from the game’s midway point, the Rangers struggled to get the puck out of their own zone and as a result, a long shot from William Nylander went off some traffic in front to find its way through Shesterkin to tie things back up, 2-2.

Play slowed back down from there as whistles were rather consistent and neither team was generating much. With just over five minutes to go, the Rangers sent the Leafs back to the power play as Ryan Lindgren got the stick up high on Matthews in a puck battle down low in the defensive zone. While the Leafs had their share of opportunities, the Rangers had arguably the best one as Kreider and Zibanejad went back and forth to set up Fox perfectly in the slot to which he nearly scored on the shot as well as the rebound.

The Rangers remained strong on the penalty kill and in the final minute of the period, were given another chance on the power play as K’Andre Miller took a stick up high from Matthew Knies. After a couple rough giveaways, the Rangers ended the period chasing the puck back down their end of the ice as the horn sounded to send the teams back to the locker room. Shots after two were now 22-16 in favor of Toronto as the Rangers would still have a minute to go on the man advantage in the final period of regulation.

3rd Period:

It was much of the same that continued through the first half of the third period. The Rangers weren’t able to convert on their power play chance and as play continued, both sides continued to get pucks on net despite a lot of things not clicking as cleanly as they could. One of the big things that was really holding the Rangers back was their top players not getting much done, primarily the Zibanejad and Kreider line.

The Rangers were also continuing to struggle defensively and at times, could not manage to get the puck out of their own zone. This continued to give Toronto chances and sure enough with about 13 minutes to go, a shot through traffic from Jarnkrok bounced off a couple of sticks and limbs, including the knee of John Tavares which sent the puck to the back of the net to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead.

The moment everyone was seemingly waiting for finally came with about six minutes to go as Reaves gave a jab to Matt Rempe at center ice towards the end of a shift. Rempe appeared to look at the bench, as if to gather some feedback on whether or not he should have at it and sure enough, someone must’ve given him the green light. As our pal Bill Pidto loves to say, “do-si-do and away they go”…

Wherever you land on the Rempe saga, you can’t help but give the kid stick taps for hanging in there as well as he did. Not nearly as rowdy as his fight with Deslauriers, but he did a much better job of defending himself and got some good jabs in on the league’s toughest customer. Was it a little too late in the game to try and shift the momentum? It’s never over until it’s over right?

With under three minutes to go, Adam Fox was robbed once again on a flashy glove save from Samsonov as the Rangers defender continued to have the teams best chances throughout the night. Soon enough, the Rangers pulled Shesterkin for the extra attacker and after a close call with an empty net attempt from Auston Matthews, the Rangers found the back of the net. Once again, it was Vincent Trocheck capitalizing on the lower left wing side of the net off an Artemiy Panarin rebound.


Well, this was an entertaining five minutes that surely got fans warmed up for playoff hockey vibes. The Rangers would end up out-shooting the Leafs 5-0 in the five minutes of bonus hockey but it felt much closer than that sounds. Both sides were quite cautious with their puck possession and maintained their fair share of it, but the Rangers certainly had more chances to end it. Ilya Samsonov came up with a couple of big saves to keep his team in it but the highlight was probably this shift from Artemiy Panarin.

The Leafs had a chance in the final ten seconds but the Rangers ended up taking a delay of game penalty for sending Lafrenière out on the ice far too early which broke up the potential rush. One last face-off in the Rangers zone would result in the decision of this game coming in the form of a shootout.


William Nylander got things started but missed the net just wide. Artemiy Panarin then came down at his usual shootout pace and ripped a shot right into the chest of Samsonov.

Austin Matthews was then turned away by a great save from Igor Shesterkin and Mika Zibanejad, perhaps out of slight frustration, just let an almost half hearted slap shot go that fooled Samsonov to give the Rangers the advantage.

The game was on Mitch Marner’s stick and sure enough, he would find the back of the net, even after it appeared that Shesterkin had him beat. Marner was quite patient with the puck, so much so they had to review the play to make sure he didn’t come to a complete stop in the process. This kept the thing alive for an extra round of free-for-alls.

Max Domi picked up a nice birthday present for himself in the form of a bar down wrist shot that beat Shesterkin to give the Leafs the advantage. This left the game on Trocheck’s stick and despite already having two goals on the night, he wouldn’t be able to find the back of the net which gave the Leafs the extra point.

Unlike most fans, I have some love mixed in with my hate for the shootout. They’re so fun, dramatic and a unique opportunity for some insane goals but when it comes to deciding the outcome of a game, it’s such a brutal way to win, or mainly lose a game. Nevertheless, the Rangers made it an exciting showing and for what it’s worth, have been great in 6-on-5 opportunities with an empty net.

The Rangers will have a bit of a break in the schedule as they only have one game prior to the looming trade deadline that is now less than a week away. They’ll head home from here to host the Florida Panthers at the Garden on Monday night as they’ll look to get back on track after a tough battle in Toronto.