The last-place Toronto Maple Leafs continue to have a difficult time scoring goals and an easy time making mental mistakes to prolong their horrific beginning to the 2009-10 NHL season.
Toronto extended its franchise-worst losing streak to start a season to seven games after a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers before 19,295 frustrated fans at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday evening.
The Leafs faithful showered the team with boos in the third period and near the end of the affair a section high up in the stands behind Toronto goalie Joey MacDonald chanted "0 and sev-en."
"It's not helpful, but I understand how frustrated the fans are," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, whose team now has a week to absorb the festering disenchantment before their next game in Vancouver against the Canucks next Saturday.
The Leafs have scored only 14 goals in seven games, but blamed the play of standout netminder Henrik Lundqvist as the excuse for their latest lack of production against the Rangers.
"We generated as many chances as we have in any game, but [Lundqvist]was the difference," Wilson said. "I think when you boil it all down Lundqvist was unbelievable."
The Leafs outshot their opponents 35-28. Toronto's mounting losses have common threads. For the seventh game in a row, the Leafs surrendered the game's first goal and they now have been outscored 11-2 in the first period.
The Leafs league-worst penalty-killing unit yielded its 11th goal, when rookie Mike Del Zotto made it 3-0 early in the second period. The Leafs also killed a golden opportunity in the first period with another boneheaded, undisciplined penalty.
This time forward Alexei Ponikarovsky was the culprit. With the game goal-less in the first period, the Leafs had a 5-on-3 advantage for 55 seconds, but a bumbled play at the New York blueline turned the play the other way.
Ponikarovsky slashed Rangers forward Ryan Callahan at the Toronto blueline. The penalty created a four-on-four situation, and it didn't take Brandon Dubinsky long to make the Leafs pay with the game's first goal off a three-on-one rush.
"Certainly it had an impact," Wilson said. "We made a bad decision at the point with the puck and then a bad decision coming back and slashing the guy when you're in a 5-on-3.
"Guys often are going to get to the red line and dump it in, you don't have to reach out, but that's what we've been doing, shooting ourselves in the foot."
New York led 1-0 after the first period and 3-1 after 40 minutes. Del Zotto, of nearby Stouffville, scored the goal in front of 20 family members and an estimated 50 friends.
"It's a great to get a win. To get a goal is a cherry on top," he said.
The Rangers extended their winning streak to seven games and they sit atop the league in the standings with the Pittsburgh Penguins with 14 points.
New York coach John Tortorella agreed that his netminder made some timely saves, but was upset that the opposition continues to run his goalie. In the second period, Toronto's Lee Stempniak cruised in following up the play and although he tried to avoid Lundqvist, he banged into the Swedish goalie.
"This is three games in a row where he's been hit a couple of times," Tortorella said. "I asked the refs what do they want us to do. As usual, they don't have much to say other than 'you're bringing it to our awareness.' I said, 'I shouldn't have to bring it to your awareness.'
"Some of these hits that are coming on him now are ridiculous."