Maple Leafs hammered by Rangers

Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonathan Bernier makes a save in first period action as they host the New York...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Jonathan Bernier makes a save in first period action as they host the New York Rangers at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday, January 4, 2013. (MICHAEL PEAKE/QMI Agency)

IAN SHANTZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:17 PM ET

If they could peel back the roof of the ACC, drop 100,000 fans in, let it snow and have HBO film it all, the Maple Leafs might have had a chance.

As it turned out, they discovered the wild Winter Classic party could result in one hell of a hangover. From success in the Big House, the Leafs came up small at home, as the New York Rangers overcame travel fatigue to spank Toronto 7-1.

It was the most goals allowed by the Leafs this season and tied their worst deficit in a loss.

Leading the way for the Rangers were some GTA grads, two goals from ex-Leaf Dominic Moore and Caledonia’s Cam Talbot beat the Leafs for the second time in two weeks.

The Leafs saw their six-game points streak, a high under coach Randy Carlyle, crash and burn against the Rangers, one of the teams pursuing them for a playoff spot. The Leafs lost winger David Clarkson and defenceman Carl Gunnarsson early in the game, which didn’t help their re-adjustment to regular NHL action.

Carlyle had been wondering how to work new guy Tim Gleason in on defence, but by the end of the first period, Gunnarsson was hurt and the surviving five were deserving of a night in the stands. Gleason likely debuts on Tuesday against the Islanders before his Thursday homecoming in Carolina eight days after the deal for John-Michael Liles.

Jonathan Bernier snared a double deflection and stopped a Chris Kreider breakaway or the Rangers would have been three or four goals up after the first period.

After a searing start by the line of James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, just what the Leafs needed after the Rangers played, lost and travelled from Pittsburgh the night before, Toronto backed off and paid for it dearly.

Defenceman Cody Franson tried some trickery when a simple zone clearing pass would have done and the Leafs never did get it out. Carl Hagelin eventually manoeuvred in front to screen Bernier on a Dan Girardi drive and was credited with the tip.

Then came Michael Del Zotto’s point blast, timed at 151.8 kilometres an hour by Hockey Night In Canada, that struck David Clarkson square on the left ankle. He went to the bench, to the room with the help of a trainer, came back out for a whirl at the end of the period and again at the start of the second before calling it a night.

Also finished after one period was Gunnarsson, who had already taken a shot off the head via the crossbar in warmup and wasn’t feeling right.

Juggling madly with Clarkson out, Kadri made Carlyle’s decision easy to demote him a couple of shifts with a weak breakout pass right near the Leaf bench. He found himself on the fourth line between Jerry D’Amigo and Colton Orr, the whole unit caught looking when ex-Leaf Dominic Moore came into the zone and shocked Bernier with a five-hole goal from a bad angle.

With their bread and butter goalie rattled, things went from bad to worse in the middle period for Toronto. The Rangers came in waves and passed with ease, going cross ice a couple of times before Benoit Pouliot made it 3-0.

Then Derek Stepan had time to line up Kreider for an alley-oop pass, the latter squeezed past Franson and made a nice far side deke at full tilt. On a similar play down the opposite side, Moore brushed aside Jake Gardiner and tucked it under Bernier’s crossbar.

Carlyle was no doubt hoping to get through the period before lifting Bernier, but Wednesday’s hero had to make the walk of shame back to the bench after allowing the five goals on 32 shots as James Reimer mopped up. The hook did have the desired effect for a few minutes, as Joffrey Lupul found the short side on Talbot.

Lupul likely thought he’d be in the press box Saturday after a phone hearing Friday afternoon for a crosscheck to the neck of Detroit’s Patrick Eaves. But he got off with a wrist slap $10,000 fine for his 22nd point in 34 games. Brad Richards broke hois 13-game scoring slump in the third.


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