Henrik Lundqvist stopped 34 shots as the Rangers made it seven consecutive victories and kept the Leafs winless by beating Toronto 4-1 at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.
Youngsters Brandon Dubinsky, Mark Staal, Michael Del Zotto and Enver Lisin provided the offense for the Rangers, who haven't lost since a 3-2 defeat at Pittsburgh in their season-opener. Their 7-1-0 start matches the best start in franchise history; the 1983-84 Rangers also won seven of their first eight.
"Right now we have a lot of confidence," Lundqvist said. "It was a good road win."
In contrast, the Leafs have yet to win this season, have been outscored 32-14 and have dropped six in a row in regulation since a 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal on opening night. Those six losses include a 7-2 blitz by the Rangers in New York five days ago.
At 0-6-1, the Leafs have matched their worst seven-game start in their history. In 1990-91, the Leafs had six losses and a tie before beating Chicago -- then lost the next four games. Toronto and the New York Islanders (0-3-3) are the only teams in the League without a victory.
"We've hit rock bottom,'' forward Lee Stempniak said. "There's no lower to go."
The Leafs' effort wasn't lacking -- they carried the play for much of the game and had plenty of scoring chances, but Lundqvist kept them off the board except for Ian White's second-period goal. He outplayed Toronto's Joey MacDonald, who's filling in with starter Vesa Toskala and backup Jonas Gustavsson both out with injuries.
"I think when you boil it all down, Lundqvist was just unbelievable," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Toronto didn't help itself by going 0-for-6 on the power play, managing only six shots.
The Leafs don't play again until next Saturday, and the players plan to use the week of practice to try to get things going forward again.
"This has been a tough stretch,'' forward Matt Stajan said. "I think maybe a week off might be beneficial. We're going to have to make it beneficial because that's the way the schedule is."
The Leafs had the better of play through the first 15 minutes, outshooting the Rangers 11-4 and forcing Lundqvist to make a number of tough saves, including one on a breakaway by Jason Blake with just under 6 1/2 minutes left.
"The key for me is to be patient all the time," Lundqvist said. "It doesn't matter if it's a breakaway or a shot from the blue line. I just need to wait for it. When you have confidence, and the guys are playing great in front of you, it's a lot easier."
Blake drew a slashing call on Del Zotto on the play, and the Leafs got a 5-on-3 advantage for 55 seconds when Brian Boyle was called for cross-checking at 14:42. But Toronto did nothing with the advantage, and Alex Ponikarovsky gave it away at 15:30 when he slashed Ryan Callahan in the neutral zone.
The Rangers grabbed the lead during the 4-on-4 when three Leafs got caught in the New York zone on a 3-on-1 break. Dubinsky raced down right wing, opted to shoot from 15 feet away and ripped a wrist shot that beat MacDonald to the short side for his third of the season.
It was the seventh time in as many games that the Leafs have allowed the first goal.
The Leafs tested Lundqvist again near the 19-minute mark, forcing him to stop John Mitchell from the slot and Rickard Wallin on the rebound. The Leafs finished the period with a 14-8 advantage in shots.
"We have to find a way to score," Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle said. "We're making the goalie look good right now."
Toronto continued to press the action early in the second period, but again it was the Rangers who put the puck in the net. Staal made it 2-0 at 4:36 when he came around the net from MacDonald's right to his left and tucked in a wraparound -- putting the Leafs down by a pair for the sixth game in a row.
It became 3-0 just 71 seconds later. With Viktor Stalberg in the box for hooking, Marian Gaborik's shot from the right wing hit the post and caromed back to Del Zotto. The rookie defenseman's slap shot from the top of the left circle zipped though MacDonald's pads at 5:47.
"I (was) excited to be in this building," Del Zotto said of his first NHL game in Toronto, near his hometown of Stouffville, Ont. "I grew up watching the Leafs, obviously, and came here to watch a few games. So it's just a dream come true to play in this building."
Gaborik's assist, one of three on the night gave him at least one point in each of his first eight games as a Ranger. He leads the team with 12 points.
The Leafs cut the deficit to two just 21 seconds later. Niklas Hagman forced a turnover at center ice, barged down left wing and fired from inside the circle. Lundqvist stopped that shot and got the rebound, but White dug the puck out of the goaltender's pads and tucked it into the open side to give the sellout crowd something to cheer about.
The Rangers got a break just after the 13-minute mark when Blake raced down left wing and slid a perfect pass to Stalberg, who was racing down the slot -- only to have his deflection clank off the post to Lundqvist's left.
Lisin made it a three-goal game again 2:26 into the third off a broken play. Wade Redden's point shot was blocked and drifted into the slot, where Lisin found it between four Leafs and whipped the loose puck past MacDonald.
That goal appeared to take much of the life out of the Leafs and the crowd, who spent the final minutes expressing their displeasure after Toronto dropped to 0-4-1 at home.
"I understand how frustrated the fans are -- I do understand that," Wilson said. "But booing doesn't help."
--John Kreiser, NHL.com
Material from team media was used in this report
|Brandon Dubinsky (3) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 NYR
|Marc Staal (1) ASST: Marian Gaborik (5), Brandon Dubinsky (5)|
2 - 0 NYR
|PPG - Michael Del Zotto (3) ASST: Marian Gaborik (6), Vinny Prospal (8)|
3 - 0 NYR
|Ian White (1) ASST: Niklas Hagman (2)|
3 - 1 NYR
|Enver Lisin (1) ASST: Wade Redden (3), Michal Rozsival (3)|
4 - 1 NYR
|Brandon Dubinsky Interference against John Mitchell|
|Jason Blake Slashing against Brian Boyle|
|Michael Del Zotto Slashing against Jason Blake|
|Brian Boyle Cross checking against Alexei Ponikarovsky|
|Alexei Ponikarovsky Slashing against Ryan Callahan|
|Viktor Stalberg Hooking against Ryan Callahan|
|Donald Brashear Charging against Jeff Finger|
|Artem Anisimov Holding against Viktor Stalberg|
|Luke Schenn Cross checking against Artem Anisimov|
|Michal Rozsival Hooking against Jay Rosehill|