Rangers' Sjostrom buries Leafs in shootout
Right-winger Fredrik Sjostrom scored the game-winning goal in the shootout to propel the New York Rangers to a 1-0 win over the pesky Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Sjostrom, who remains a perfect 3-for-3 in shootouts, watched as his backhand shot hit the post and the right foot of Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala before trickling into the net.
Both goaltenders were spectacular on the night as they earned shutouts for their respective teams.
Toskala made 32 saves, including a pair in overtime. The Finnish native became the first Leaf to earn a shutout at Madison Square Garden since Hall of Famer Johnny Bower in 1965.
Ranger netminder Stephen Valiquette was equally strong, stopping 21 Toronto shots.
"I really want to feel as comfortable as possible in this rink," said Valiquette, an Ontario native. "I know that my job and my role on the team is to be ready at all times. I have to add value to the team, no matter if I'm starting or I'm supporting."
This was the second shootout loss in as many games for the Leafs, who dropped a 5-4 decision to St. Louis on home ice Monday night. The Leafs are now 0-1-2 since opening the season with a surprising road win over the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
New York bounced back from a 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night to improve its record to 6-1. Rangers forward Nikolai Zherdev opened the shootout by snapping a shot between the legs of Toskala.
After Toronto's Matt Stajan and Rangers winger Nigel Dawes were denied in the shootout, Nikolai Kulemin pulled the Leafs even with a nifty deke on Valiquette.
Sjostrom then put New York in front for good as Jason Blake's attempt for Toronto failed to beat Valiquette. It was the first time the Rangers and Leafs went scoreless in their storied rivalry since a regulation game on Dec. 8, 1956.
"I don't feed off the other goalie. I feed off the energy my team is creating," said Valiquette. "In the third period, I felt like I could have played another game. We had so much energy."
Both teams had numerous chances to score the first goal in the second with New York outshooting Toronto 10-6. Toskala slid across the crease to deny Scott Gomez from slipping the puck past the goalline midway through the second period.
Toronto defenceman Pavel Kubina made a terrific individual effort, weaving through three Ranger defenders before Valiquette stuck out his right pad to prevent a goal a minute later.
Winger Niklas Hagman also had a glorious opportunity to put Toronto on the board in the dying seconds of the middle frame, but fanned on a shot with the side of the net wide open.
"It seemed like both teams were playing not to lose," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "You have to be on your toes. You have to be proactive. I'd rather lose a game being decisive and going after it than sitting back and hoping you're going to get it."
Toskala remained brilliant in the third period, making 11 stops, including a great glove save off Dawes with 33.8 second left to force overtime.
"I made some good saves, and sometimes you need a little luck," said Toskala after earning his 12th career shutout. "Sometimes they stay out, and sometimes everything goes in. That's the life of a goalie."
The Rangers also failed to capitilize on seven power-play chances.
"The calls don't drive me nuts. My team drives me nuts, taking those penalties," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "It's just a lack of discipline. Keep your stick down because we killed ourselves killing penalties."
Wilson continues to show a lot of confidence in Luke Schenn.
The rookie defenceman logged nearly 26 minutes of ice time, and registered five hits and five blocked shots.
With files from the Associated Press