Auston Matthews highlighted his return to action with two goals on Tuesday night, but that performance wasn’t enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
With his two goals, Matthews took the top scoring lead in the National Hockey League this season, and became the first player to reach the 25-goal plateau in the 2023-2024 season. The American forward missed the Leafs’ last game due to a virus.
Matthews reached the 25-goal mark in just 28 games. He became the fifth player in Maple Leafs history to accomplish this feat after Babe Dye, Reg Noble, Charlie Conacher, and Wendel Clark.
Rather, it was Mika Zibanejad’s two goals that benefited the Rangers. Quebec’s Alexis Lafreniere also found the back of the net for the first time in 13 games, while Braden Schneider and Artemi Panarin also scored goals.
The Rangers have now won their last three games, beating the top two teams in the Atlantic in the process. Saturday night, New York had the best of the Boston Bruins.
Igor Shesterkin blocked 31 of 33 shots directed at him to enjoy the win, while his opponent, Martin Jones, surrendered four times of 35 shots.
Rangers had a bit of luck midway through the game to open the scoring. Blake Wheeler’s shot initially appeared to deflect several times in front of Jones’ cage. Zibanejad was the last player to shoot the ball, which then ended up in the net.
The Maple Leafs’ response came more convincingly just over a minute later. A brilliant rise from Morgan Rielly allowed him to put the ball behind him for Matthews, who leveled the game at 1-1 with a quick volley.
Lafreniere then ended his 12-game slumber without scoring a single goal. Just over two minutes after Matthews’ goal, Al-Kebbe took advantage of the numerical advantage to unleash a wrist shot that deflected off Rielly, before finding himself in the back of the net to put Rangers back in the driver’s seat.
But just like the first time, it was Matthews who was responsible for getting everyone back to square one. Quickly into the third period, Matthews was forgotten in the slot and took advantage of a great pass from Jake McCabe to score his second goal of the game.
Midway through the period, Schneider made a great one-on-one play in the opponent’s zone and put the puck between Jones’ pads to bring the score to 3-2 in favor of the New Yorkers.
The Rangers then dealt the Maple Leafs a huge blow on the power play, when Artemi Panarin completed a brilliant pass to double his team’s lead. Zibanejad completed the score into an empty net.
The Maple Leafs face the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday, while the Rangers return to action against the Oilers on Friday.
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