Marner scores quickly in OT to lift Maple Leafs over Rangers
TORONTO (AP) — Mitch Marner scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 on Wednesday night in a matchup of Eastern Conference contenders.
Pontus Holmberg scored early and Timothy Liljegren had a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs (30-11-8). Ilya Samsonov stopped 27 shots and improved to 14-0-1 at home, further cementing his place in Toronto’s crease ahead of Matt Murray.
“Dialed,” teammate William Nylander said. “On top of his game.”
Filip Chytil scored twice for New York (26-14-8), and Igor Shesterkin made 32 saves.
“We played real well in a tough building with a real good team against us,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “I want the two points, but we’ll take the one and run.”
Marner weaved his way past all three Rangers skaters in the 3-on-3 extra period after Toronto won the faceoff at center ice. He cut hard across the crease and tucked his 18th goal of the season past an outstretched Shesterkin.
“Tried to slow the play down, see if anything was going to open up,” Marner said. “Saw I had my own little lane and tried to take it.”
Chytil got New York even 1-all at 2:10 of the second period on a sneaky faceoff play.
The Rangers’ center squared off against David Kampf on an offensive zone draw, but instead of trying to win the puck back to a teammate, he fired it toward a surprised Samsonov with a shot through the pads for his 14th goal.
“Gotta give it to him,” Nylander said. “Haven’t seen that in a long time.”
Samsonov, meanwhile, wasn’t in the mood to discuss the play.
“I had a lot of positive moments,” he said. “(Chytil) won the lottery.”
Chytil then gave the Rangers — who beat Toronto 3-1 at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 15 — their first lead at 6:31 when Kaapo Kakko sent a slick pass to his linemate for him to snap home his second of the night.
New York had a terrific chance to go up 3-1 on a power play early in the third, but Chris Kreider flubbed a sure goal at the side of Samsonov’s net.
Toronto started to push as the period wore on and finally beat Shesterkin, who won the Vézina Trophy last season as the NHL’s top netminder, when Liljegren scored his fourth with 4:11 left on a broken play.
“The Rangers did a good job of shutting us down,” Liljegren said. “But we kept pushing.”
Nylander assisted on the goal for his 400th career point.
“We stepped on the gas a little bit,” Nylander said. “Got some offensive zone time and got some dirty pucks to the net.”
John Tavares hit the crossbar with a shot in the waning seconds of regulation for Toronto.
The Maple Leafs jumped out to a 1-0 lead 2:27 into the first — a chunk of the late-arriving crowd had yet to take their seats due to a winter storm that blanketed Toronto — when Holmberg moved in alone on Shesterkin and backhanded in his fifth of the campaign.
Samsonov made his best stop of the period five minutes before the intermission with a desperation stick save on K’Andre Miller in tight.
The Russian beat countryman Ilya Sorokin 5-2 on Monday when the New York Islanders were in town and duplicated the trick against another standout goaltender from his homeland 48 hours later.
“Great battle with him,” Samsonov said of Shesterkin. “A little bit bigger game for me than normal.”
GALLANT BACKS LAFFY
Gallant said Wednesday morning he’s been happy with winger Alexis Lafreniere’s response to being made a healthy scratch Dec. 29. The first pick in the 2020 NHL draft had a goal and set up another in Monday’s 6-2 victory over Florida after registering just two assists in his previous nine games.
“He’s a 21-year-old kid,” Gallant said. “Sometimes they need a little kick in the butt to get going again. He’s been excellent.”
Lafreniere had an assist Wednesday.
Rangers winger Will Cuylle made his NHL debut in his hometown. Selected 60th overall in 2020, the 20-year-old has 13 goals and 20 points in 39 AHL games this season. Cuylle is the first Toronto native to debut in Toronto for a team other than the Maple Leafs since Kirk Tomlinson of the Minnesota North Stars on Feb. 24, 1988.
Rangers: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night in their final game before a long break for the All-Star Game.
Maple Leafs: Host the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
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