Pull out all the hockey clichés you like. Hockey is a funny game. That’s hockey. Sometimes you lose games you should win.
The Leafs could have used one, or all, of those phrases after losing 4-1 to the Rangers in New York on Sunday night.
Alex Georgiev made 55 saves Sunday, including 12 on Nazem Kadri, in the Rangers’ 4-1 win over Toronto. (Bruce Bennett / GETTY IMAGES)
Toronto logged a season-high 56 shots on net, but couldn’t beat Rangers rookie goalie Alex Georgiev. Well, they beat him once — on Kasperi Kapanen’s breakaway goal, a rising shot that went in off the post and probably would have beaten just about any goalie in the game.
So Toronto’s winning streak ended at four games. But this is one loss the Leafs won’t fret over.
In fact, the Leafs are often scrutinized for giving up too many shots. But they are just 13-9 when outshooting an opponent, and 3-4 when they log 40 or more shots this season.
“When you look at the previous four games, we’ve been on a roll and playing good hockey,” Kapanen said. “To be honest, I felt like we played a pretty good hockey game today too. Their goalie made 55 saves or whatnot. He had a tremendous game. I believe we should have earned that win there but that’s just hockey.”
That’s just hockey.
About those shots: The Leafs had 86 total shot attempts. Ten were blocked, 20 missed the net. No wonder the Leafs shooters were shaking their heads most of the night … Nazem Kadri had a career-high 12 shots on goal, including 10 in the first two periods. The Kadri-William Nylander-Connor brown line had an amazing shift in the first period as the Leafs tried to rebound from a goal by the Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad 28 seconds into the game. The Leafs went on to outshoot the Rangers 20-1 over the next 15 minutes.The faults with those stars: So why didn’t the Leafs get a better result? Well, they were loose defensively in the first period. It wasn’t a good night for defenceman Jake Muzzin, who has received rave reviews through his first four games with the Leafs. He was weak on the Zibanejad goal, and was out of gas on a long shift when he failed to clear the puck on the Rangers’ second goal. John Tavares was a minus-3 despite logging eight shots on goal. He had three seemingly sure-bet goals denied by Georgiev.
“Yeah, I mean, I would say we had the puck the majority of the time,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “Obviously, we had quality, quality chances. I thought their goaltender had a good night and we missed lots of opportunities. In saying that, it was a game we’d like to win. We thought we had good legs, we thought we had pretty good execution.
“But, on the other side, sometimes … their goalie plays real good and he steals you a game. Probably over a long season it evens out. It doesn’t make you feel any better on the night, but that’s the way it is.”
Heir to the throne? Georgiev celebrated his 23rd birthday Sunday, and gave himself the ultimate present. His 55 saves were the second-most by a Rangers goalie in a single game. Mike Richter set the franchise record with a 59-save game in 1991.
The Rangers are taking a good look at Georgiev. Starter Henrik Lundqvist is now 36 and in his 14th NHL season.
“(Georgiev) made some huge saves,” Leafs forward Mitch Marner said. “I mean, a lot of those power-play ones weren’t just first-opportunity (changes), we had a lot of seconds and thirds that he made some good saves on. He played a hell of a game for them.”
Power outage: The Leafs’ power play was great Sunday, putting 23 shots on goal in four instances with the man advantage. But they still came up empty.
The Leafs have now logged 33 games in which they have not scored a power-play goal. And this one had to be the most frustrating of the bunch. Twenty-three shots. Toronto has played seven games this season in which it has managed 23 shots or fewer.
“I thought the power play was really good even though (it) didn’t score,” Babcock said. “It would be pretty hard to look at that power play and say it wasn’t good. I think it’ll be good for our guys to go through … to understand they had good looks and good opportunities. In the end, when you do good things, good things happen over time.”
Added Marner: “We talked about (the power play) earlier today. We know how much skill we have in this group. It’s just more about calming down, I think we did that tonight. We calmed down when we had the puck in our hands.”
Mark Zwolinski is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @markzwol
SPORTS ACTION AND RE-ACTION DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.