Lou Lamoriello never liked the Rangers.
The feeling is rooted in his Devils background when the Blueshirts and Jerseyites had their regular Battles Of The Hudson.
Now that Larrupin’ Lou is Toronto’s major domo the urge to have his club rip the Rangers on ice remains as keen as ever.
Whether that intensity filters down to ice level is a moot question but it sure was evident last night at The Garden.
Toronto’s 4-2 victory not only snapped the Rangers two-game winning streak but also emphasized that Lou’s Leafs are one of the NHL’s surprise teams and seem hellbent for a playoff berth.
As a matter of fact, it’s possible to envision a Toronto-New York playoff series. Based on last night’s showing that wouldn’t be a cakewalk for Alain Vigneault’s skaters. Hey, these Leafs are flying.
Meanwhile, the Blueshirts can get right back into a groove — they hope — tonight in Montreal, where they face the Canadiens.
OVERVIEW: Henrik Lundqvist could have sued for non-support; especially from his defense and penalty-killers. Toronto’s pair of power play goals were strategically located within the Leafs four goals burying any Gotham hopes. One New York rationale could be the Rangers “bye week” which rusted the aces. That is, if you believe in “byes,” as in bye-bye win streak.
WHAT WENT WRONG
1.FALLING BEHIND-FALLING DOWN: There are only so many times the Blueshirts can spot an opponent a two-goal lead and expect to rebound with a win. Granted the Rangers shortened the deficit to one in the second period but failed to prevent a late goal in the middle frame and that ended that rally.
2. PENALTY-KILLING A KILLER: A pair of Toronto power play goals essentially proved the game-sealer. Superior penalty-killing could have reversed the decision.
3. TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: Down 4-1, New York produced a neat J.T. Miller goal reducing the margin down to 4-2. But pulling Lundqvist was, by this time, an exercise in futility and no further red lights were ignited by Vigneault, Inc.
4. THE SAVE THAT WASN’T: With the Maple Leaf goal machine in high gear early in the match Henrik Lundqvist pulled off what could have been rated The Save Of The Game. But his defense failed to clear the zone and the fleet Leafs quickly beat Henny on the ensuing play thoroughly defusing crowd joy.
5. POWER FAILURE: The Rangers went oh-for-six on the power play. When it was 3-1 Leafs at the start of the third, New York had a chance to narrow the lead on a PP and failed. That was a crucial miss.
6. THREE FOR FIVE-HOLE: Henrik Lundqvist was beaten five-hole on three of Toronto’s four goals. A better Blueshirt defense would have helped avoid those flaws.
THE GOOD NEWS
1. CHRIS RARELY MISSES: The indomitable Chris Kreider scored an improbable goal while sitting on the ice. It symbolized CK’s determination.
2. THE MOMENT OF CHEER: During pre-game ceremonies honoring the late Detective Steven McDonald, The Garden held a “Moment of Cheer” during which the capacity crowd hailed the hero cop with long, heartwarming roars of remembrance for a dearly beloved Rangers fan.
3. RENEWED NASH — PLUS: Rick Nash returned to action along with Pavel Buchnevich. Mika Zibanejad may soon join the big club.
WHAT THEY SAID
1. RYAN MCDONAGH: “We weren’t sharp in the execution.”
2. HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “The first period deficits are hard to correct. The third period goal was a tough one. I need to find a way to get better in the end. Together we have to turn it around.”
3. MSG’S JOE MICHELETTI: “A lot of what Kreider has been able to do has been the result of Mats Zuccarello’s work. Mats had nine shots. On the other side, I was impressed with Toronto’s speed and eight rookies.”
4. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “Our power play had quite a few opportunities. As far as falling behind early; the first goal was one that Hank would want back. Toronto has quite a skill level. The pre-game ceremony had no effect on the result.”
BOTTOM LINE: A quick turnover as in New York to Montreal could cure the Blueshirts woes at Bell Centre. The trick will be beating goalie Carey Price who’s still hurting after an embarrassing loss to the Wild.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: RANGERS AT MONTREAL. GAME TIME: 7 p.m. TV: MSG Network.