(AP) — The Toronto Maple Leafs seemed to score at will during their recent season-high four-game winning streak, but they’ve struggled to generate offense since.
The New York Rangers haven’t fared much better.
Two teams struggling to put the puck in the net look to bounce back Wednesday night when Toronto and New York close out their season series.
The Maple Leafs (18-21-5) scored 21 goals in four consecutive wins from Jan. 6-11, including a nine-goal output against Atlanta.
That outburst ended abruptly, however, as Toronto has since been outscored 6-2 in back-to-back losses. The Leafs’ 114 goals are among the fewest in the league, and four of their last five defeats have come by one goal.
Toronto, which fell 2-1 in a shootout to Calgary on Saturday, plays its next five games against opponents currently in playoff position.
“It’s a big point for our team,” captain Dion Phaneuf said after Saturday’s contest. “We’re not happy about not getting the two (points), but it showed a lot of character and showed a lot about our group the way we’ve been playing the last couple weeks. We’ve been in every hockey game and we’ve battled right to the end.”
Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 33 saves in his first start since Dec. 16 after missing 12 games with a groin strain.
“I felt pretty good,” Giguere said. “It’s been a tough battle since Christmas trying to get myself back into the game. It was just nice to be able to play a game and to compete.”
He’ll likely be in net for his third start of the season against the Rangers. Giguere beat New York 4-3 in overtime Oct. 15 at Madison Square Garden and started the last meeting between the teams, a 2-0 Rangers win at Air Canada Centre.
New York also beat Toronto 2-1 on the road Oct. 21.
Phil Kessel scored his second goal of the game in overtime and added an assist in the first meeting with the Rangers, who have had their own offensive troubles of late.
New York (26-18-3) is 1-3-0 in its last four and has managed two or fewer goals in eight of the previous nine. All but one game in that span has been decided by one goal.
The Rangers lost 3-2 to Philadelphia on Sunday and coach John Tortorella benched forward Marian Gaborik for most of the second period, when he played just 2:25. Gaborik had 42 goals last season but has 11 in 2010-11 and hasn’t scored in eight straight.
“I got benched there – coach’s decision,” said Gaborik, who has two goals in 10 games against Toronto. “Bottom line is I have to produce and help this team win games.”
Gaborik isn’t the only struggling Ranger. Leading scorer Brandon Dubinsky and Brian Boyle, who has three goals against the Maple Leafs this season, each have one goal in their last nine.
Backup Martin Biron made 24 saves versus the Flyers, and he’ll likely return to the bench in favor of Henrik Lundqvist on Wednesday. Lundqvist is 4-0-2 with a 1.81 GAA in his last six against the Maple Leafs.
The Rangers have won five of the last seven meetings.
Updated January 18, 2011
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