TORONTO— Two games into the season, the Maple Leafs offence is already in top gear. But despite winning both contests, it has been a wild ride.
After enduring a penalty-filled start to beat the Jets 7-2 to kick off the season Wednesday, Toronto survived a four-goal New York comeback to defeat the Rangers 8-5 in its home opener Saturday night.
Third-period goals by Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri helped secure the Toronto win.
The scoring spree marks the first time the Maple Leafs have scored seven or more goals in consecutive games to open a season since 1917-18 when the Toronto Arenas scored nine and 10 goals, respectively.
Fun and dumb was Leafs coach Mike Babcock’s assessment of the up-and-down evening.
It was an adventure in defending for both teams at times, with Toronto pulling ahead 5-1 in the first period and chasing Henrik Lundqvist before the Rangers scored four unanswered goals to quieten the Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,621.
Babcock pointed to the final result, calling it a “big win at home” while acknowledging there is more work to be done.
“The second period, I don’t know what we were doing,” he said. “We got away from our game.
“That’s the way sports should be. When you don’t do things right, you shouldn’t have success and we didn’t. There’s lot of things we can get better at but the way I look at it is we’ve played two (games) now and found a way to survive in both of them and win the games.”
Babcock said while the Leafs lost their way, “we had enough stability and enough talent to stick with it and end up getting a win.”
“So a big win for our team. It’ll feel good tomorrow and we’ll fix the things we’ve got to fix,” he added.
Toronto hosts Chicago on Monday.
Tied 5-5 going into the third period, Bozak ended the Leafs’ slide at 7:17 by redirecting a fine pass from the corner from Jake Gardiner over Ondrej Pavelec’s glove. The Rangers lost a challenge that the play was offside, earning a minor penalty in the process.
Kevin Hayes took a slashing penalty for New York and Komarov made it 7-5 at 9:52, tapping in the rebound after William Nylander roofed a backhand off the crossbar.
The Rangers pulled their goalie with some three minutes remaining only to see Ryan McDonagh take a hooking penalty. Kadri took advantage with a low shot at 18:30.
Toronto also got two goals from Zach Hyman and singles from Gardiner, Dominic Moore and Nikita Zaitsev.
J.T. Miller, Kevin Shattenkirk, Mika Zibanejad, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello scored for the Rangers (0-2-0). Zuccarello also had three assists.
Lundqvist must have felt like he was in a shooting gallery following a first period that saw Toronto lead 5-2 after outshooting the Rangers 17-12. The beleaguered Swede was replaced by Pavelec to start the second period.
“They’re a good team, really good team,” said Lundqvist. “They make you pay if you’re not sharp with your decisions in your own end.”
Toronto also chased starter Steve Mason in Winnipeg.
The Leafs scored first through Moore and, after Miller tied the score, increased the lead to 5-1 on two goals by Hyman and singles by Gardiner and Zaitsev.
Shattenkirk started the comeback late in the first with Zibanejad, Staal and Zuccarello scoring in the second to tie at 5-5.
The Rangers, who had a 15-11 edge in shots in the second period, could have had more in the period but Frederik Andersen made a huge save and the Leafs got some kind bounces around their goal.
The Leafs outshot the Rangers 41-35.
The crowd was ready for the game, chanting “Go Leafs Go” before New York took the ice. They had been warmed up by the 48th Highlanders pipe band, before the Leafs were introduced with photos of the players as kids shown on the video screen.
The on-ice action started almost immediately with three goals in three minutes four seconds as Lundqvist and Anderson found themselves under fire.
Lundqvist was the far busier, giving up four goals on 15 shots before the first period was three-quarters over. The fans cheered him late in the period when he made a save, with Lundqvist holding up his glove in response to the jibe.
The Rangers were beaten 4-2 on Thursday by visiting Colorado despite outshooting the Avs 39-26.
Moore, who played parts of five seasons with the Rangers, replaced Eric Fehr while defenceman Calle Rosen came in for Andreas Borgman.
There were other changes. Outside the Leafs’ dressing room, there is now a futuristic blueish installation featuring the words: Honour, Pride, Courage. Underneath are the Leafs names that are engraved on the Stanley Cup.