Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Nikolai Kulemin scored the lone goal in the shootout, as the Toronto Maple Leafs spoiled John Tortorella's debut behind the bench, defeating the New York Rangers, 2-1, in the back half of a home- and-home series.
The 50-year-old Tortorella was tabbed the 34th head coach in Rangers history on Monday after Tom Renney was shown the door. New York got off to a blazing start this season, posting a sterling 10-2-1 record in October and leading the Atlantic Division throughout most of the first half, but has been spiraling of late.
The Rangers have dropped 11 of their last 13 games, including Sunday's 3-2 overtime home loss to Toronto, and are clinging to a once-secure playoff spot. New York is sixth in the Eastern Conference standings with 70 points, just three ahead of ninth-place Carolina.
The club's recent struggles ultimately cost the calm, mild-mannered Renney his job after having guided the Rangers to three consecutive postseason appearances following the lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season.
In comes the fiery Tortorella to deliver a much-needed kick in the pants. This marks Tortorella's second stint on Broadway. The Boston native was an assistant with the Blueshirts during the 1999-2000 season and took over as interim coach for the final four games after John Muckler was fired.
Tortorella then moved on to Tampa Bay, where he reached the pinnacle of his profession, guiding the Lightning to the club's lone Stanley Cup Championship in 2004. However, he was relieved of his coaching duties at the end of last season after the Bolts finished in the cellar of the East.
Wade Redden scored for the Rangers, who have dropped nine in a row on the road since edging Chicago in overtime on January 16. Henrik Lundqvist finished with 23 saves for New York.
Niklas Hagman, who had the overtime winner on Sunday, found the net again for Toronto, which has gone beyond regulation in each of its last four games (2-0-2). Vesa Toskala stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced.
The visitors grabbed a 1-0 lead at 10:26 of the second period with the extra skater. As Toronto defenseman Jonas Frogren served a tripping penalty, Redden uncoiled a slap shot from the left point that made its way through traffic and past the glove of Toskala for his first goal in 58 games.
Hagman beat Lundqvist high on the glove side with a wrister from the slot, tying the game at 10:21 of the third period.
After a scoreless overtime in which Toronto failed to convert on a power play, Kulemin tallied on the first attempt for the home team, snapping the puck past the blocker of Lundqvist. It proved to be the deciding goal as Toskala denied New York's trio of Markus Naslund, Chris Drury and Nikolai Zherdev.