With the Air Canada Centre as quiet as a tomb for much of the proceedings and the home team laying an egg for the first time this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs' five-game point streak to start the year came to an end on Thursday night in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers.
And just like that, the Leafs have their first losing skid of the year.
Playing only their second game in six nights, Toronto was inexplicably flat from the get-go, allowing the Rangers to rack up a 15-8 advantage on the shot clock in a first period that included goals from Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Anisimov late in the frame.
Those two tallies then proved more than enough, as signs that goal scoring could again be an issue for the Leafs were readily available much of the night.
Toronto's woeful power play was part of the problem, going 0 for 5 despite being gifted a few early opportunities. The Leafs fell to 4 for 28 on the year, a 14.3-per-cent success rate that looks eerily like their last-place performance (14 per cent) with the man advantage last season.
Having seen enough of his team's listless play by late in the second, Leafs coach Ron Wilson began to use his familiar line blender for the first time this season, at one point shuffling fourth-line centre Mike Zigomanis out between Phil Kessel and Kris Versteeg.
The juggling act paid off eventually as Colby Armstrong -- bumped up to the second line -- netted his first as a Leaf midway through the third. Toronto, however, couldn't beat Rangers backup Martin Biron the rest of the way and was tagged with its first regulation loss of the year.
The game started as a pretty sleepy first appearance for Biron, but things picked up rapidly as the Leafs pressed late in the third. The veteran stopped Versteeg on a breakaway on one late power play and then made several other sharp stops as part of a 24-save night.
Biron's strong play was helped by the fact his team blocked more than 30 shots in front of him -- far more than the Leafs -- and comes as welcome news for New York. Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist has struggled in the early going this season and acknowledged Thursday he could very well have a lighter load than the 70-plus starts he's had the past four years.
Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson was competent in his second start of the season, stopping 30 Rangers shots and not allowing any goals with an odour, but didn't have much help from the team in front of him.
The rough stuff
NHL heavyweights Colton Orr and Derek Boogaard did their dancing bears routine two minutes in, fighting one another for the first time in nearly 10 years dating back to their junior days. Orr, who had his bell rung against Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Deryk Engelland last week and had to leave that game, got the better of The Boogeyman in this one.
Boogaard nearly got the last laugh on the scoreboard, however, with a couple unlikely offensive chances in his limited ice time. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound enforcer hasn't scored since Jan. 7, 2006, an NHL-leading 226-game goal drought.
The Rangers, thin up front at the best of times, were without Marian Gaborik, Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal on Thursday night, two of whom were injured against the Leafs in their meeting last week. Minus that trio, New York used the little-known Anisimov as their No. 1 centre between Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.
With the game's second goal Thursday night, however, Anisimov has four points in five games.
The Leafs, on the other hand, remain remarkably healthy and have made only one lineup switch six games into the season. Centre John Mitchell, who has yet to play this year, and defenceman Carl Gunnarsson were the healthy scratches for the second game in a row.
1. Martin Biron, Rangers
2. Luke Schenn, Maple Leafs
3. Artem Anisimov, Rangers