The Toronto Maple Leafs want to solidify their hold on a playoff spot, and that showed in their effort last night against the New York Rangers.
Of course, they didn’t exactly play in ideal fashion last night. Both of New York’s goals came on the same Leafs power play. One shorthanded goal is unacceptable, but two on the same power play? I’m not sure how to describe that, but I’m certain it wouldn’t be nice.
Nonetheless, the Leafs stuck to their game and battled back to secure an eventual 3-2 win in overtime. The is especially important because the Rangers have been chasing the Leafs in the standings, and the win put the Leafs into third place in the Eastern Conference.
In other words, they’ve avoided the pressure of holding one of two Wild Card spots for the present moment. I’m sure they appreciate the extra breathing room.
Special credit for the win must be given to Tyler Bozak, who proved an absolute menace to the Rangers and Olympic goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in particular. Bozak out waited Lundqvist in netting the game’s winning goal, and he scored on a rare penalty shot minutes into the second period.
Both goals represented career firsts for Bozak – his fist penalty shot goal and his first overtime goal.
The emergence of Bozak as a bona fide first-line center this season has been a welcome surprise. Playing alongside Bozak, James van Riemsdyk has already set a new career-high in points and Phil Kessel is set to reach a new career-high in points as well.
For his part, Bozak has collected 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 40 games. He scored a career-high 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in 73 games during the 2011-2012 campaign. Thus, it seems safe to say he’ll also set a new career-high in points this season.
Bozak, Kessel and van Riemsdyk have proved especially important to the Leafs’ success over the past two months. Last night suggested that the success will only continue.
Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports (especially the Toronto Maple Leafs), politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson