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Rangers lose to Leafs in MSG debut

The digs are new, but the problems taking advantage of home ice remain fully intact.

The digs are new, but the problems taking advantage of home ice remain fully intact.

The Rangers’ 4-2 loss to Toronto in the 2011-12 season opener at the transformed Madison Square Garden on Thursday night was a microcosm of what has plagued the franchise in the last two years. They have a 38-34-10 mark at the Garden in that span.

“It’s been the core group here for the last three, four years; we all know what we have to do to be successful. In the second and third we didn’t do any of that. That’s what cost us the game,” Dan Girardi said. “In the first period, we were blocking shots, getting second [and] third chances down low. There was none of that in the second and third. It was run-and-gun, chasing tails back the other way. That’s not going to get the job done.”

John Tortorella recently termed his team’s play as “spotty.” It was an example of the oft-quotable coach carefully choosing his words.

What will undoubtedly irritate Tortorella was that the Rangers were unable to take advantage of an awful Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson entered the game with 4.86 and .857 save percentage for Toronto, but yielded just Dan Girardi’s slapshot 6:23 into the match and Michael Del Zotto’s unassisted slapshot with 4:20 left.

The Rangers had chances to increase their lead but apparent Michael Del Zotto and Brandon Dubinsky first-period goals were waived off by the refereeing tandem of Dennis LaRue and Ian Walsh as they ruled Ryan Callahan was in the crease on both. On both plays, Callahan was shoved into Gustavsson by Leafs skaters.

“I happened to bump into the goalie on the tip in and think they made the right call there,” said Callahan.

The disallowed goals came back to haunt the Rangers when Matt Lombardi equalized with a drive that beat Henrik Lundqvist between his blocker and his body 1:20 into the second.

“They have a quick bunch of forwards and their ‘D’ likes to join the play,” Girardi said. “If you don’t get the puck all the way deep, that’s when they’re going to be coming at you full speed, four and five man rushes to the net. That’s hard to defend.”

Joffrey Lupul scored the game-winning goal 2:11 into the third. Lupul drove the net and shoveled the puck under Lundqvist.

The game was decided when Clarke MacArthur’s off-wing drive eluded Lundqvist 4:22 later. Mike Komisarek stole the puck from Artem Anisimov before head-manning a pass up the boards to MacArthur. Mike Brown’s off-wing slapshot from the top of the right faceoff circle increased the lead to 4-1.

Toronto outshot the Rangers, 36-28. Lundqvist made 32 saves.

Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter
@DenisGorman for coverage of the Rangers, Islanders and Devils.

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