After a successful season that led to their first playoff berth in seven years, the New York Rangers are chalking up some early struggles to growing pains.
Looking to avoid their fifth loss in six games, they head to the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night to meet the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Nashville Predators marked the first time the Rangers (3-4-0) had struggled offensively. Thanks in large part to Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan, the league's top two active leading goal scorers, New York had netted 24 goals in its previous six games.
Jagr set a franchise record with 54 goals last season. He's also scored 26 of his 593 career goals against the Maple Leafs, against whom he has a four-game, goal-scoring streak with six goals and 10 points in that span.
Brendan Shanahan has seven goals in his first season with New York, and 605 for his 19-year career. He's averaging a point per game against Toronto with 30 goals and 26 assists in 56 games.
New York, though, has been inconsistent defensively. Their 4.00 goals allowed per game is third-worst in the league ahead of only Philadelphia and Phoenix, the last-place teams in the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions, respectively.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was 30-12-9 with a 2.24 goals-against average as a rookie in 2005-06, which included victories in both his starts against Toronto. So far, he's just 3-3-0 with a 3.49 GAA.
Coach Tom Renney said he's not pleased with his team's early season struggles.
"Due to the integration of some key people to our lineup and trying to continue to re-define ourselves, you're going to suffer growing pains and every team goes through what we're going through and hopefully that's it for us this year," he said. "We certainly want to get it back on track as quickly as possible."
Toronto (4-2-2), which has lost three straight to New York, is trying to post consecutive wins for the first time this season. Two nights after being booed off the ice by their home fans following a loss to Colorado, the Maple Leafs defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Friday.
Kyle Wellwood and Michael Peca scored 34 seconds apart late in the second period Friday to snap a 1-all tie. It was the first goal of the season for Peca, a Toronto native playing in his 700th NHL game.
"It feels good to score, especially the first one of the season," said Peca, who joined the Leafs after helping the Edmonton Oilers come within one win of the Stanley Cup title. "You don't want to go too long without getting it. I feel very comfortable."
Peca scored twice for the Oilers in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers last season.
Bryan McCabe, third among all defenseman with 19 goals last season, scored his first of 2006-07 in the win over Columbus. All three of his goals against the Rangers last season came on the power play.
Toronto backup goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin beat the Rangers three times in a 16-day span in March 2004 while playing with Pittsburgh. He hasn't faced them since.