After several games apart, coach Alain Vigneault reunited his top offensive line of Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash, and Derick Brassard Friday night, and the move paid off big time. Zuccarello scored his first NHL hat trick, Nash and Brassard each had three assists, and the Rangers beat the Maple Leafs 3-1 at The Garden.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 24 of 25 shots for his 5th win of the season.
Zuccarello got the scoring started midway through the 1st period. Nash, behind the net, passed the puck to Brassard in front; he passed it to a wide-open Zuccarello, who scored underneath goalie Jonathan Bernier‘s glove at 9:46 for a 1-0 Rangers lead.
Neither team scored in the 2nd period. Early in the 3rd, Brassard and Zuccarello broke in on Bernier. Brassard made a perfect backhanded pass to Zuccarello who tapped it in at 5:34 to make it 2-0.
Toronto cut the lead to 2-1 with under two minutes to play. The Leafs pulled Bernier for an extra attacker. Dion Phaneuf‘s shot was deflected in by Joffrey Lupul at 18:09, and the Leafs had life.
But Zuccarello completed his hat trick at 19:11 for the final 3-1 margin. Zuccarello now has a team-high seven goals on the season.
The Rangers [now 7-2-2, 16 pts] are back in action Tuesday night at The Garden against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.