Maple Leafs learned from last year’s long list of blown leads ... Another first-period barrage ... Lou keeps pre-game show short
Among all the strange, strange sights on opening night, how about Mike Babcock clapping after his team gave up a 5-1 lead.
Not that he didn’t feel like throttling a couple of players who took their foot off the gas as the New York Rangers roared back in the second period, but this was a teaching moment and the hard-line coach went up and down the bench exhorting his team to stay on task and not let the energy that carried them through the first period work against them.
“Last year was a really big thing for giving up leads,” Mitch Marner reminded. “We know what it’s like to give up leads and we knew what to do. We stayed calm.”
What Babcock said behind closed doors in the intermission was likely more pointed, but bottom line, Toronto is 2-0 and in for a grueling video session Sunday. The coach did chalk some of the ebb and flow to the peculiarities of opening night, with many players having family and friends at the ACC.
“It’s always a little crazy. We started like a house on fire and you saw this kind of thing last year where we lost our way. It was happening and we talked about why is was happening, but we weren’t behind.”
Though 5-1 isn’t exactly the worst lead in hockey after a period, never underestimate the power of a last-minute goal.
Kevin Shattenkirk’s powerplay marker, a calling card the Rangers will have to use often in what could be a challenging year, was the first time Toronto had been shorthanded all night. But it underlined what the Rangers needed to do, apply pressure on the Leafs in their end, before their young stable of swift shooters could get room to operate.
“We’ll fix the things we have to fix,” Babcock said. “We’ve played in two home openers and found a way to win.”
WHAT A START!
“Knockin’ at the door, I have a thirst for more, more, more.”
The Leafs channeled the words from their new pregame video by the Arkells into deeds, setting the right tone for the second straight game they beat up an opponent with a first-period barrage. The 8-5 final, which included only one Auston Matthews assist, meant 15 goals in two games and was the highest-scoring home opener since 1991 at the Gardens when they defeated Detroit by the same score.
After the first 20 minutes, only four Leafs skaters were without a point in four periods
Connor of the new season — Brown, Eric Fehr
(who Dominic was exchanged for Moore
against the Rangers) Calle Rosen (making
Josh his debut Saturday) and Leivo,
who has yet to play.
The 48th Highlanders piped in the new season, moved up in the program to before the warmups and performing before a near-empty arena.
James van However, winger Riemsdyk
was a little wistful that his father, Frans, couldn’t make it to see them.
“The first opener he’s not been here for,” said van Riemsdyk, who joined the Leafs in 2012. “My dad really looks forward to all that stuff with the bagpipes.”
Really? Van Riemsdyk doesn’t sound like a Scottish name.
“He just loves that stuff for a reason, I don’t know why,” JVR laughed. Frans and wife Allison went
Trevor van to see brother Riemsdyk’s
first game with Carolina on Saturday night. Usually it’s worked out they can see both sons’ openers on different nights. The 48th also play The Maple Leaf Forever at Thursday night’s Legend’s Row statue unveilings, more than just music to the
Brad Conacher, ears of representing his late father Charlie.
“This is just the best,” Conacher said. “They played that song the first year the Gardens opened and which I think should be the national anthem. And I’m not the only one.”
ON WITH THE SHOW
had a word with ACC game ops not to make the portion of the opening ceremonies involving the Leafs to go very long, lest they get stiff. “There won’t be too much of that, just introduce them and get it going,” Babcock said in the morning. “But I think it’s important to celebrate with the fans, I really do. There’s an excitement in Toronto. Lots of guys will have families here, too, but we can’t let that get in our way. We have to be mature about the process and play the right way.”
In describing the vibe around Toronto, Babcock relayed a story from his morning run when a security guard shouted at him: “We believe! We believe!”
“I was just glad he didn’t run me over,” quipped Babcock. “It’s much different than it was when I arrived three years ago in terms of energy, but I think the passion for the team has been the same.”
Leo Komarov’s goal came
Alain after New York coach Vigneault
challenged whether Marner was offside on Toronto’s go-ahead strike. Marner backed over the blueline as he caught a pass on his chest, but because he controlled it, no call was made. The Rangers were assessed a minor for losing the video gamble and though they killed it off, a followup slash by Kevin Hayes
occurred dur- ing the 5-on-4 ... ... Rangers
J.T. Miller, forward now with nine points in his last 11 games against Toronto, added a stiff
Ron Hainsey shoulder into to his reputation as a Leafs nemesis
Mika Zibanejad ... recorded his third power-play goal in two games, while Shattenkirk had two special-teams points.
Leafs’ Nazem Kadri takes Rangers’ Pavel Buchnevich into the boards last night at the Air Canada Centre.