NEW YORK — The New York Rangers spent the first part of the night celebrating the success of last season, and the rest of it trying to figure out what has gone wrong so far in this one.
Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and the Toronto Maple Leafs broke out of their scoring slumber with five goals in the second period against Henrik Lundqvist and wrecked the Rangers’ home opener with a 6-3 victory on Oct. 12.
“Obviously, there are things we need to work on,” said Lundqvist, who watched the third period from the bench with a baseball cap on. “They’re a good team … we just made it a little too easy for them to score.”
The Rangers were outscored a combined 11-5 in a pair of weekend losses on consecutive days. Their only highlight was the recognition of the banner commemorating New York’s Eastern Conference championship of last season.
“We’ve got to look at each other here and look at our team and figure out what we need to do to be successful,” new captain Ryan McDonagh said. “When things aren’t going as well as we want them to, we have to learn to pull back and just simplify instead of trying to force too much.”
McDonagh and fellow veteran defenseman Dan Girardi were on the ice for four of Toronto’s goals.
“No one in our group wanted to perform the way we did,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “Every opportunity seemed to find the back of the net. “We don’t have a reason or an explanation right now,” he added.
Toronto (1-2) mustered only five goals in its first two games of the season, but busted out, fueled by Kessel and van Riemsdyk, who both notched their first goal and first point of the season. Kessel chipped in two assists, and van Riemsdyk had one.
“This was a step in the right direction,” van Riemsdyk said. “We’re a team that needs contributions from all four lines, and we had that.”
Defenseman Cody Franson staked the Maple Leafs to a 1-0 lead in the first during a power play, and Kessel, Nazem Kadri, van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and David Clarkson connected in the second — driving Lundqvist from the net after he stopped only 18 of 24 shots.
“You need to get that first one, and I was glad to get that first goal,” Franson said. “It was a big boost for us.”
Kessel’s goal was also on a power play, and van Riemsdyk stuffed a puck under Lundqvist on a short-handed breakaway. Toronto has scored five power-play goals this season. New York (1-2) didn’t allow any in its first two games and hasn’t scored any, either.
Franson and Bozak both had a goal and assist, and Leo Komarov had two assists. James Reimer made 24 saves before being leaving with 13:17 remaining after being struck in the head during a collision with Rangers forward Dominic Moore.
New York’s Rick Nash, a question mark to even play due to the impending birth of his first child, tied the game with a first-period goal and then left after the second period. Lee Stempniak brought New York to 4-2 in the second period.
Derick Brassard scored with 5:41 left against Toronto backup goalie Jonathan Bernier to close the scoring. Cam Talbot, who took the loss in the Rangers’ 5-2 defeat at Columbus on Oct. 11, mopped up and stopped all 12 shots he faced.
The last time the Rangers allowed at least five goals in a period was Feb. 6, 2009, in a 10-2 loss at Dallas that Lundqvist missed because of illness. He hadn’t yielded five in a period since Dec. 16, 2006, at Toronto when he was touched for eight — including five in the first period — of a 9-2 loss.
“We had a good night against a goaltender that doesn’t have many bad nights,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said.
Toronto opened the scoring on Franson’s power-play goal at 7:45, his first tally of the season. Kessel worked the puck down in the Rangers end to Bozak in the left circle. Bozak then fed Franson in the right circle for a drive that eluded Lundqvist.
Nash scored his fourth of the season and extended his streak of netting at least one in each game. He took a quick pass across the zone from Martin St. Louis and deftly deflected the puck underneath the crossbar to tie it 1-all with 2:38 left in the first.
Then Toronto took over.
The Maple Leafs regained the lead 5:19 into the second on Kessel’s goal and made it 3-1 just 2:31 later when Kadri scored. Van Riemsdyk pushed the advantage to three goals at 9:43 before Stempniak was awarded a goal when video replay confirmed he scored before the net was knocked off its moorings.
But 59 seconds later, Bozak killed the Rangers’ momentum with his third of the season. Clarkson ended Lundqvist’s night with his first at 15:13.
(IRA PODELL, AP Hockey Writer)