Rangers fall to Maple Leafs 3-2 in season finale: Will play Devils to begin Stanley Cup Playoffs

Rangers end season with 1-0 win over Maple Leafs
New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) celebrates his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning with right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) and left wing Chris Kreider (20) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
AP Photos

The 2022-23 regular season has officially concluded and the New York Rangers have their first-round playoff opponent set. 

Following their 3-2 season finale loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night, and the Carolina Hurricanes knocking off Florida, the New Jersey Devils and Rangers will face off in the postseason for the seventh time in NHL history. 

To conclude the season, and with both teams having first-round playoff matchups on the horizon, both the Rangers and Maple Leafs laid off on the physicality that usually comes from Original Six matchups. It wasn’t until early in the second period when Kaapo Kakko scored his 40th point of the season that the patient offenses finally struck. 

While sitting key players like Patrick Kane and Ryan Lindgren were potential possibilities even before play started, the Rangers’ head coach shot down any idea of New York resting on their laurels before the playoffs. 

“You have your regular routine. Obviously, you’re not going to play those guys a ton of minutes but they are going to play their regular shifts,” Gerard Gallant said in the lead-up to New York’s win. 

Both teams wouldn’t get their offenses going until the final period. William Nylander notched his 40th goal of the season while Artemi Panarin scored on the powerplay. It wasn’t until Noel Accardi tallied the third goal of the period for Toronto that the Maple Leafs were finally able to jump ahead of the home-crowd Blueshirts. Filip Chytil’s  game-tying goal with 1.2 seconds left in the game was quickly overruled to conlude the regular season, and New York’s chance at a comeback. 

Even with most starters playing, not every star saw action in the season finale for the Rangers. Reigning Vezina-winning goaltender sat against Toronto while Jaroslav Halak got his 25th start of the season and put up  . 

New York’s regular season may have concluded with a loss, but the focus now quickly shifts to the most grueling playoff format in sports. And with their opponent being a familiar arch-rival, there are sure to be fireworks. 

 “I like our team heading into the playoffs and I think we’re ready to get things going,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “This is a rivalry that hasn’t been crazy since I’ve been here so it’s going to be my first taste of some rivalry hockey with (New) Jersey. I think it’ll be exciting for the fans, exciting for the players. It’ll be a good matchup.”

Game Notes

  • The Rangers’ 107 points are just three less than the total of last season’s team that made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. 
  • Seven players including captain Jacob Trouba played in all 82 games this season for the New York Rangers. Four others played more than 80 games during the season. It marks the third time since 1958-59 and the second since 2011-12 that the Blueshirts have had seven or more players play in every regular season game according to the Rangers Stats & Info Twitter account.
  • Kakko’s score was his 40th of the season for the Blueshirts – the eighth player on the team to score over 40 on the season. 
  • Adam Fox recorded his 60th assist of the season on Panarin’s powerplay goal. He and Brian Leetch are the only two defensemen in Rangers history to have multiple 60+ assist campaigns.

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