The Rangers have, in many respects, had a strong start to the season despite missing some key pieces, chiefly on defense.
Saturday night in Toronto though, the 'B-group' had some destructive moments.
The Rangers and the Maple Leafs traded goals for 60 minutes, but it was the home team that struck last, and Toronto handed the Rangers their first regulation loss in their last five games, defeating New York 5-4.
Making his regular season debut, Derek Stepan and his new line didn't wait long to get on the scoresheet, as Chris Kreider deflected home a Kevin Klein shot only 53 seconds into the first to put the Blueshirts ahead.
Toronto would fire back, and score the game's next three. It began when the Rangers took two penalties in succession, giving the Leafs 1:31 of 5-on-3 power play time. The first goal came from Phil Kessel, who connected on a cross-ice pass from James van Reimsdyk down low to knot the score at one.
A power play would lead to Toronto's second of the night, only it was the Rangers who had the advantage. Mats Zuccarello turned the puck over at the offensive blue line, and the Leafs took the puck the other way, shorthanded, with Peter Holland finishing off a strong sequence to make it 2-1.
The Leafs would double their lead late in the first, as Richard Panik flipped home a rebound from the slot with Michael Kostka in the area, making it 3-1 Toronto.
Stepan's line would cut the deficit back to one only 21 seconds later. After gaining the zone, Kreider corralled the puck behind the net, and fired a quick feed out front to Zuccarello, who one-timed it past Jonathan Bernier to send the teams into intermission at 3-2. Stepan got a secondary assist on the goal, his first point of the season.
The middle frame belonged to the Rangers, who scored the only goal of the period. Carl Hagelin got in on the forecheck disrupting an outlet pass, and Dominic Moore found Hagelin in front of the net as the speedy winger deposited Moore's pass to tie things at three. The goal was Hagelin's 100th career NHL point.
It was the Rangers who struck first in the third, with Rick Nash (of course) finding the back of the net. After Derick Brassard's initial pass to Nash was blocked, Martin St. Louis recollected the puck, and threw a no-look feed back to Nash that caught Bernier out of position, and gave Nash an easy tap-in and the Rangers first lead of the night since 1-0. Nash is again tied for the league lead in goals, now with 11 in his first 13 games.
Toronto would storm back in the final half of the third period, with missed defensive assignments freeing up the Leafs some space to operate. Roman Polak tied the game at four when his point shot beat a screened Cam Talbot. Neither Conor Allen nor Kostka were able to clear David Clarkson from atop the crease, and Talbot never saw the shot.
On the game-winner, Matt Hunwick turned the puck over attempting to leave the zone, leading to a 2-on-1 with the rest of the Rangers trying to break up ice. Jake Gardiner read the play well up the boards, and then hit Leo Komarov in front for the decisive score.
It was a tough night for the Kostka-Allen pairing, which was on the ice for two of the goals against. Hunwick also had two mistakes that directly led to goals against, which combined accounted for four of the five goals allowed by Talbot.
Special teams was also an area of weakness for New York, who not only conceded a shorthanded goal, but again took an 0-for on the power play, not scoring on either of the opportunities it had.
The Rangers won't have to wait long to get back in the win column, as the team returns to New York to face the Oilers tomorrow night.