Trying for their first 6-0 start in franchise history, the Rangers’ normally solid special teams faltered in a 3-1 home loss Wednesday night to the Buffalo Sabres.
Heading into the second period, New York (5-1-0) had not allowed a power-play goal for the season, killing off 23 straight penalties. After Michal Rozsival got two minutes for tripping, Buffalo’s Ales Kotalik tied the game at 1 on the ensuing power play. Thomas Vanek converted on another Rangers penalty later in the period and scored a short-handed goal in the third.
“We got a little sloppy, and they’re a team that takes advantage of that,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said.
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist allowed three goals for the first time this season, despite facing just 19 shots. Lundqvist had surrendered four goals in his first four games.
The beginning of the season should seem familiar for Toronto as the Maple Leafs have started 1-1-1 for the third straight year, but it’s the way the Leafs have lost this past week that is troubling.
Toronto held what seemed like a comfortable 3-0 lead over St. Louis after the first period of Monday’s game at home, but got an unwise and untimely penalty from left wing Ryan Hollweg in an eventual 5-4 shootout loss.
Back after a two-game suspension for collecting three boarding penalties in 41 games, Hollweg slammed Blues rookie Alex Pietrangelo from behind into the boards with Toronto leading 3-1. The Blues turned that five-minute boarding penalty into a pair of power-play goals to tie the game less than six minutes into the second period.
St. Louis added further woes to a Toronto team that’s killed just 60.0 percent of penalties, allowing opponents to convert six of 15 opportunities.
Hollweg also received a game misconduct for his actions, and got an automatic three-game suspension from the NHL for his fourth game misconduct in that same 41-game span.
“There’s a fine line you dance of being aggressive and then completely pulling back and we’ve got to work with him to find that fine line,” Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Toronto grabbed the lead back on a Niklas Hagman goal with six minutes left in the second period, but St. Louis’ Paul Kariya tied it in the third. In the shootout, Toronto’s Vesa Toskala allowed both Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes to score.
Toskala has allowed 10 goals in the past 105 minutes, and it was the 39th time he has given up four or more goals in 184 career games. He was pulled after giving up six goals in 40 minutes during a 6-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Friday’s game marks the first meeting between these Original Six teams since Dec. 29, 2007. The Maple Leafs have gone 2-1-1 in each of the past two seasons against the Rangers, winning three of the last four games at Madison Square Garden.