NEW YORK — Alexandar Georgiev made an NHL career-high 55 saves on his 23rd birthday, and the New York Rangers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey, Adam McQuaid and Kevin Hayes all scored, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello each had two assists for New York (24-23-8), which completed its season-long five-game homestand 2-2-1.
“It was a special birthday,” said Georgiev, who made 23 of his saves on the penalty kill. “I tried not to concentrate on the birthday wishes because I knew I had an important game in front of me, and I’m very happy it ended the way it ended.”
Kasperi Kapanen scored and Garret Sparks made 26 saves for Toronto (34-18-3), which had a season-high 56 shots on goal but couldn’t extend its four-game winning streak and a six-game point streak (5-0-1).
The Maple Leafs hadn’t lost in regulation since Jan. 20 (4-2 against the Arizona Coyotes).
“There was lots of chances on the power play, obviously, but I thought we had a lot of good players here tonight,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s not like I could go through it and say, ‘This guy didn’t play good.’ That wasn’t the case. We played good.”
Georgiev’s 55 saves are the most by a Rangers goalie in a game that ended in regulation since the NHL started tracking saves in 1955-56. It’s also the most saves made by a Rangers goalie at the Garden in their history.
He fell four saves shy of matching Mike Richter’s team record for most saves in a game; Richter made 59 saves in a 3-3 tie against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 31, 1991.
Georgiev’s previous NHL career-high was 43 saves in a 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on March 24, 2018.
“He made some huge saves,” Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner said. “I mean, a lot of those power play ones weren’t just first opportunity; we had a lot of second and thirds that he made some good saves on. He played a [heck] of a game for them.”
Zibanejad gave the Rangers a spark early by scoring his 23rd goal of the season 28 seconds into the first period to make it 1-0.
Georgiev preserved the lead four minutes later; he was credited with 13 saves on Toronto’s first power play.
“I think Georgie was feeling it right from the get-go,” Rangers coach David Quinn said, “and unfortunately we forced him to feel it on that first penalty kill with the way they were tic-tac-toeing that puck around.”
Kapanen tied it 1-1 at 10:35 of the first period with his 16th of the season, a breakaway goal he finished with a blocker-side shot from the hash marks. Kapanen intercepted Tony DeAngelo‘s attempted cross-ice pass to Marc Staal at the far blue line and went in uncontested.
“Lately, it hasn’t been bouncing my way so I just kind of thought I’d shoot blocker side as hard as I can,” Kapanen said. “Thankfully, it went in the net.”
But Vesey scored his 12th of the season 3:30 later on a one-timer from the right circle off a cross-ice pass from Kreider to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 14:05, despite the fact Toronto had a 21-5 edge in shots on goal.
McQuaid scored his second off a Maple Leafs turnover at 11:59 of the third period to extend the lead to 3-1.
Hayes scored an empty-net goal at 19:40 for the 4-1 final.
“A shutout would have been nice, but I won’t ask for much,” Georgiev said. “I’m happy with the way it happened and thankful for the guys who played hard.”
They said it
“Their goaltender stole the show. That’s going to happen, especially on the road. I think we played a pretty solid road game, just all the pucks seemed to be hitting him. Just one of those things.” — Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri
“This is going to sound insane, but I thought we actually defended pretty well tonight. You look at the shot total, and I feel like a complete idiot walking off and saying we defended pretty well even though there were 55 shots. But I actually thought we defended pretty well. That’s a scary, scary team. They have high-end talent, they can beat you 1-on-1, but boy, I thought we did a good job clearing the netfront out.” — Rangers coach David Quinn
Need to know
Kadri had an NHL career-high 12 shots on goal. His previous career high was eight, which he had three times. Maple Leafs center John Tavares had eight shots on goal but was minus-3. … Zuccarello has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 11 games since Jan. 12.
Maple Leafs: At the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; ALT, TSN4, NHL.TV)
Rangers: At the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, MSG, NHL.TV)