When the Maple Leafs took to the ice last night in Anaheim, not a whole lot of people expected them to win, or even gave them a chance to win, or thought that Paul Ranger might score a nice goal, or that Phil Kessel would score his 34th goal on the season, OR that Jonathan Bernier may just play his strongest game of the season.
Or that the Leafs would escape with a 3-1 win, and play a relatively stress-less third period. That doesn’t happen very often when the Leafs are playing.
“When we were at the net (Leafs net) I knew we had a 2-on-1 right away, I just had to bust my butt to get up there,” says Ranger of his 2-on-1 goal in which he scored off a Kessel pass. I trust him that he’s going to make a good play, whether shoot or pass. I just put my stick on the ice, I can’t see anything because the defenceman that’s there. Great pass.”
“We all came to play, which was awesome to see,” offered Ranger afterwards.
As for scoring the goal that helped build the Leaf lead a little higher (something Ranger hasn’t done a whole lot this season), he said it was nice to get on the scoresheet.
“That’s a part of my game I haven’t really focused on much this year.
He also said that when you focus on playing solid defensively, those offensive opportunities “tend to present themselves” sometimes…”and that was one of them.”
“Our goal is to come in here (to California) and win three games,” says Ranger in the dressing room afterwards. We can play with them. We proved it tonight.”
But all of that stuff ended up happening, yes it did, and it ended with Leafs leaving town with a well-deserved 3-1 win. A win that puts them uncomfortably into second spot in the Atlantic Division. Boston is still a country mile ahead but everybody knows that already.
Even HC Randy Carlyle wasn’t willing to dwell on a big win too much, telling the media afterwards that the next focus is on tonight’s opponent when they visit the LA Kings.
“A lot of things went well early in the hockey game, they are a good hockey team but we had one power play in the game, but we had some real strong zone-tying shifts.”
We blocked a lot of shots also, he said.
It was a Toronto win over their coach’s old team, Carlyle was happy about that too.
“There is satisfaction when you beat your former hockey club, im not going to hide that but our focus is not what we did tonight, our focus is what we have tomorrow (Tuesday night at SJ).”
Kessel nearly scored into an empty net and that would have been a huge bonus. There are about 16 remaining in the season and he needs 16 goals to hit 50 goals. Not sure if that has been done as long as I have been following the team. Mats Sundin probably came close if he never actually reached it, but all that matters now is that the Leafs are red hot and they are playing two more games in the hottest state in the USA.
A little over an hour or now, they face the Stanley Cup champs from a year or so ago, the Los Angeles Kings.
Tonight, the Leafs are in San Jose, battling another team who is more than 20 games above the .500 mark. Sitting at 41-17, and 7-2-1 over their last 10 starts, San Jose is always on a roll, well except for when they play in the playoffs!
Tonight will be the second and final game between San Jose and Toronto and it is a 10:30 EST puck drop at the HP Pavillion.
Toronto is also looking for their third straight win, San Jose has lost only four games at home all season long in regulation time.
Defenceman Cody Franson has been declared sick and will not skate in tonight’s game, as per Leafs website.
For the Sharks, Brad Stuart (upper body) is expected to sit and so is forward Tomas Hertl (knee).
Pavelski, Thornton and Marleau are 1-2-3 on the Sharks scoring race.