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Domi scores shootout winner, Leafs top Rangers after Reaves and Rempe drop gloves

TORONTO — Max Domi knows better than most what it takes to be an enforcer in the NHL.

After watching two heavyweights go toe-to-toe at centre ice Saturday, he used his hands in a different manner to secure the extra point.

The Maple Leafs centre scored the shootout winner on a night that saw teammate Ryan Reaves drop the gloves with hulking Rangers rookie Matt Rempe in a much-anticipated fight as Toronto downed New York 4-3.

Domi snapped a shot past Igor Shesterkin in the fourth round after Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad and Leafs counterpart Mitch Marner, whose effort stood up following video review to make sure the puck didn't move backwards, traded goals.

New York's Vincent Trocheck then hit the post on Toronto goaltender Ilya Samsonov to seal it.

"Tie game going into the third, tie game going into overtime against a really good team," Domi said. "You've gotta have the confidence when the pressure's on."

Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander had the goals in regulation for Toronto (35-17-8). Samsonov stopped 32 shots through 65 minutes.

Trocheck scored twice for New York (40-17-4), while Alexis Lafreniere added a goal and two assists. Artemi Panarin also had two assists. Shesterkin made 31 saves.

"Anything can happen in a shootout," Trocheck said. "Good to get a point."

With the Leafs up 3-2 in the third, the six-foot-two Reaves and the six-foot-seven Rempe fought in a spirited tilt to raucous applause after the latter drilled Ilya Lyubushkin in the second with a hit that ended the newly reacquired Toronto defenceman's night.

Domi, whose dad, Tie, sits third all-time in penalty minutes, credited both combatants.

"Hardest job in the game," Domi said on his 29th birthday. "There's absolutely nothing even close.

"A lot of respect for both those guys."

Tavares called it a "throwback" fight in an era where that part of the game has become significantly diminished.

"There was some anticipation, everyone was itching for it," he said. "I don't know how anyone would ever want to drop'em with Reavo."

Samsonov enjoyed proceedings from his crease.

"Better than UFC sometimes," he said with a smile.

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was more concerned with the hit on Lyubushkin, who suffered a head injury, but was seen in the locker room post-game.

"Comes a long way, leaves his feet and hits him in the head," Keefe said.

Toronto forward Calle Jarnkrok returned to the lineup after breaking his knuckle in practice Jan. 26, while blueliner Timothy Liljegren was back from a two-game absence.

Tavares put the Leafs up 3-2 at 7:17 of the third when Jarnkrok's shot hit Rangers defenceman Jacob Trouba before ricocheting in off the Toronto captain for his 18th goal of the season.

Following the Reaves-Rempe fisticuffs, Samsonov stopped Panarin with less than five minutes remaining in regulation and then made a glove save on Adam Fox moments later.

But Trocheck tied the game with his second of the night and 22nd overall with 67 seconds on the clock when he potted a rebound to force overtime after Marner hit the post on an icing.

"We played together," said Samsonov, who also made a big OT stop on Panarin. "We stayed hard fighting."

New York opened the scoring at 11:33 of the first when Lafreniere wired his 18th.

The Leafs — now 9-1-0 over their last 10 games — got even at 3:54 of the second when Marner slid his 24th under Shesterkin, but Trochek finished off a nice passing play 1:09 later to make it 2-1.

"Very high-paced," Marner said. "We knew it was going to be back-and-forth."

Benched for a miscue on New York's first goal, Nylander got the home side even at 8:54 when he floated a shot through traffic that hit a Rangers stick for his 33rd. That gave the Swede his third 10-game point streak of the season to set a franchise record.

Shesterkin denied Leafs star Auston Matthews, who tops the league with 53 goals, on a backhand from in close and Samsonov stopped Fox off a short-handed rush.

Rempe then delivered that hard hit on Lyubushkin late in the period.

"It was a good game," Keefe said. "It was a good Saturday night from the start."

And it was finished off by Domi following an old-school tilt.

"Unbelievable," Domi said of the 37-year-old Reaves and 21-year-old Rempe. "You see the crowd was extra amped up tonight for a huge event like that. They left it all out there. Respect to that kid. He's a tough dude.

"Reavo's the toughest guy in the league. For him to hang in there like that, all the credit to him."

UP NEXT

Toronto hosts Boston on Monday, while New York welcomes Florida.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2024.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press