NEW YORK (AP)—This Toronto Maple Leafs winning streak was seven months in the making.
Not since before a 3-3 finish to the season last March that cost them a playoff spot have the Maple Leafs strung wins together.
Behind a three-goal spurt in the second period against the New York Rangers, the Maple Leafs cruised to a 4-1 win Saturday night and headed home following a two-game road sweep.
“We needed it,” Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. “The great part about being on the road is we were certainly more relaxed.”
Pavel Kubina’s first of the season woke up the Maple Leafs and started the three-goal binge against the stingy Rangers, who have allowed more than two goals in a game three times this season.
The defenseman lifted the Leafs into a 1-1 tie at 8:35, just 2:51 after Jaromir Jagr gave the Rangers the lead. Until then, New York held the advantage on the scoreboard and shot clock with a 20-7 edge.
“I don’t think they had that many good scoring chances, especially in the first,” said Vesa Toskala, who made 32 saves. “In the second they had a couple.”
The Rangers are the NHL’s lowest-scoring team (16 goals), but on the strength of goalie Henrik Lundqvist, had allowed a league-low 17 before Saturday.
Kubina’s shot from the right point changed direction on Lundqvist 29 seconds after the Toronto defenseman left the penalty box. It was the first even-strength goal yielded by the Rangers in 230:37, dating to an Oct. 18 loss at Atlanta.
After giving up only two regulation goals over four games, including two shutouts for Lundqvist, the Rangers surrendered two to the Leafs 1:20 apart.
Toronto, which entered with the most goals in the NHL (42) and most allowed (44), grabbed a 2-1 lead on John Pohl’s first with 4:14 left. Nik Antropov pushed the lead to two goals, sweeping a shot past Lundqvist as he stood untouched in front.
Chad Kilger added an empty-netter with 15.8 seconds left for the Leafs, 3-3-2 in Toronto but 2-1-1 on the road including Thursday’s win at Pittsburgh.
“We were not happy down one (goal), but comfortable down one instead of forcing things,” Maurice said. “We just kept playing and kept playing. That’s the game we have to play at home. A simple game.”
Despite being strong defensively and thwarting both power plays to give them 44 kills in 50 chances this season, the Rangers have only three wins in 10 games (3-6-1). They snapped a four-game losing streak Thursday with a 2-0 win over New Jersey.
The offense has been mostly to blame.
“I thought we played well in the first period. Something happened in the second,” Jagr said. “We have to score more goals to win hockey games. Hank can’t stop all the shots. It’s too much pressure for him.”
Jagr was the only one to get a puck by Toskala, who earned his fourth win in eight games since joining the Leafs in an offseason trade with San Jose.
Taking a crafty bank pass of the right wing boards from Michal Rozsival, Jagr carried into the right circle and used 6-foot-7 defenseman Hal Gill to set a screen. Jagr reached out and whipped a shot past Toskala at 5:44 for his second of the season.
“He’s got really good hands and a long reach,” Gill said. “I don’t even know where the shot went, but he got it off pretty quick.”
Less than 12 minutes later, the Maple Leafs had turned a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead—scoring three times in the period on 12 shots.
Lundqvist had himself to blame on the go-ahead goal after he turned over the puck to Boyd Devereaux as he played a wraparound behind the net. Devereaux found Pohl in the slot for a quick shot.
Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle earned his second assist when he spotted the unmarked Antropov at 17:06.
“They pretty much beat us with a good eight-minute stretch,” Lundqvist said. “It’s going to be too tough on the defense if we have to rely on a one-goal lead every night. We played well but we have to score more.”
Maple Leafs D Bryan McCabe, who played all 82 games last season, missed his second straight (groin). … New York outshot Toronto 11-5 in the first period and held the Maple Leafs without a shot for 16:05 until Devereaux’s short-handed breakaway shortly before Kubina’s goal. … Lundqvist’s shutout streak was snapped at 127:33. … Toronto got its first two shots of the third with under 4 minutes left.