The New York Rangers are hoping that they’re finally beginning to shake a frustrating offensive slump.
The league’s lowest-scoring team looks to build on its first win in five games Saturday when New York hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Rangers (3-5-1) have managed an NHL-low 15 goals this season and have scored one or no goals in five of their nine games, including consecutive 1-0 defeats to close out an 0-2-1 road trip Tuesday.
However, New York returned home on Thursday and got two goals from Nigel Dawes in a 2-0 win over New Jersey. Henrik Lundqvist, who has started each of the Rangers’ games, stopped 22 shots in his second shutout in three contests.
Lundqvist also earned a shutout last Saturday in a shootout loss at Boston and anchors a defense that has allowed just 17 goals, tied for the fewest in the league. He has gone 99 minutes, 16 seconds without allowing a goal.
“I like the way the team is playing right now,” he said. “We just have to score a little bit more.
“I know we might not score that much, so I have to keep focused and play a very good game to get the win.”
Dawes’ first goal just 57 seconds into the game snapped the Rangers’ scoreless drought at 126 minutes, dating to a 5-3 loss at Atlanta on Oct. 18. It was also their first tally at even strength in 182:06, stretching to a 3-1 home loss against Ottawa on Oct. 13.
The Rangers, though, don’t want to rely on Dawes for all of their offense - he was playing in just his 12th game and had just one career goal coming in.
“He’s a good player,” coach Tom Renney told the Rangers’ official Web site. “He’s got a quick release when he goes to the net, and he’s got enough confidence to shoot the puck.”
Dawes did a good job helping to make up for the absence of injured forwards Martin Straka, Sean Avery, and Ryan Callahan. The Rangers, who were opening a six-game homestand, were even forced to move defenseman Jason Strudwick up to the fourth line against the Devils.
The Rangers could have a good chance at improving their offensive numbers against the Maple Leafs (4-4-3), who are allowing 3.91 goals per game. However, Lundqvist will be tested by an offense that is scoring 3.67 per contest.
Toronto is coming off Thursday’s 5-2 win over Pittsburgh. Jiri Tlusty, called up a day earlier, scored two goals 35 seconds apart in the third period in his first NHL game.
“The NHL was my dream, now I’ve played in my first game, and in my first game I scored my first two goals,” said the 19-year-old Tlusty. “It’s great.”
“We had some fun, they were talking to each other and there was no tension,” Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. “I was happy for them. They’ve been tight for a while and that was a great breakthrough.”