Give Mitch Marner a lane at one’s peril.
The New York Rangers had that lesson spelled out for them in overtime on Wednesday night, and they paid for it.
The Maple Leafs star scored at 19 seconds of the extra period, driving past Artemi Panarin and K’Andre Miller to beat goalie Igor Shesterkin with a forehand deke.
That resulted in a 3-2 victory at Scotiabank Arena, giving Toronto its fourth win in five games and 19 victories in 26 home games.
“Great job there by David (Kampf),” Marner said. “Timmy (Liljegren) took it up the ice, drew people toward him, dropped it back to me, I saw a lot of time and space.
“I tried to come over the blue line, decide what I was going to do, try to slow the play down, see if anything was going to open up and saw I had my own little lane and tried to take it.”
Marner certainly did all of that, scoring as he fell to the ice. Liljegren had helped the Leafs earn at least one point when he tied the game at 15:49 of the third. Liljegren, who got the post-win belt from William Nylander, popped in and beat Shesterkin high on the glove side despite being checked by Chris Kreider.
“It felt good,” Liljegren said. “I think I feel a little more comfortable going down (deeper into the offensive zone), especially that time in a game where we were down one goal and needed a goal. I feel more confident in those areas.”
Nylander drew an assist on the goal, bringing him to 400 points in his NHL career.
“It’s a step on the way,” Nylander said. “It’s nothing I’m celebrating or anything. Just have to keep it going.”
In the final seconds of regulation, John Tavares hit the crossbar.
The win improved goaltender Ilya Samsonov’s home record to 14-0-1.
Samsonov made 26 saves.
“Nice game,” Samsonov said. “Great battle, this was a little bigger game for me than normal, against (fellow Russian) Shesterkin. I’m happy we won. Hard game.”
The Leafs, now 2-0 on a five-game home stand, will play host to the Ottawa Senators on Friday.
Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe kept Marner with Auston Matthews, and Nylander with Tavares, after a switch involving Marner and Nylander helped spark Toronto to a win against the New York Islanders on Monday.
The continuing reunion didn’t have a significant impact on the scoresheet through regulation, though Tavares also assisted on Liljegren’s goal.
And the Leafs did get some momentum when Keefe put Nylander with Matthews and Marner in the third.
The Rangers mostly didn’t make it easy on the Leafs, in contrast to the sequence that led to Marner’s winner.
“We kept the game close enough to give ourselves a chance to stay with it,” Keefe said. “It was probably going to be one that we would have to end up shooting our way in and get a bounce to go our way.
“There was not a whole lot happening for us. You have to give credit to New York. They were on top of us.”
Filip Chytil scored two goals in the second period, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Chytil’s initial goal came on the kind of play that is conceivable but rarely is put into motion with success.
Lining up against Kampf at the faceoff circle to the right of Samsonov, Chytil shot the puck as it dropped to the ice, catching Samsonov off guard. Though the goalie appeared to be set, his stick was not on the ice and Chytil’s quick shot got under Samsonov’s right pad and into the net at 2:10.
“I don’t want concentration about this one,” Samsonov said. “I have a lot of positive moments. He wins the lottery today, scores the goal.”
Chytil’s second came at 6:31 on a one-timer.
The Leafs had a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period after Pontus Holmberg mimicked former Leafs captain Mats Sundin to a T.
Holmberg scored on a backhand at 2:27, bringing to mind the effective release that Sundin would use every so often.
Marner ended his post-game availability with some thoughtful words on mental health.
“Never be afraid to reach out, call someone, ask people how they are doing, we are all there for one another and we want this world to be a better place,” Marner said. “You have a lot of people around you that love you and want to talk to you and make sure you’re OK.”
Marner said the carjacking he experienced last May still weighs on him mentally.
“Sometimes incidents happen that you need to express yourself and talk to people about, and that is something I have really done a great job of, is not being afraid to reach out and talk about it,” Marner said. “It’s something that still goes in your mind every once in a while when you’re getting in a car late at night. You never know what is going to happen. You have to be aware of your surroundings. If something does happen to you, you should not be afraid to reach out.”
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