Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden the Rangers let a third period lead slip away, but Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal of the shootout and Henrik Lundqvist made the final save against Mikael Grabovski in the third round for a crucial 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers now have 44 points in the tight Eastern Conference standings, tied with Ottawa and the Islanders for sixth place, though only two points clear of ninth-place Winnipeg.
Zuccarello beat Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer through the five-hole during the second round of the shootout for the game-deciding goal, which was sadnwiched by Reimer's saves on Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan. Lundqvist stopped Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri, and Grabovski during the shootout as the Rangers avenged Monday's 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs up in Toronto.
Lundqvist made 23 saves through 65 minutes of play, including a pair of breathtaking stops on Clarke MacArthur and Nazem Kadri with 1:40 remaining in overtime and the Rangers scrambling in front of their own net. Reimer finished with 26 saves, including two in overtime.
Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin each scored a goal and recorded an assist for the Rangers during regulation, while Phil Kessel scored twice for the Maple Leafs.
Moments after the Rangers failed to convert on back-to-back power plays, they saw their 2-1 lead slip away as Phil Kessel scored his second goal of the game 8:05 into the third period. James Van Riemsdyk picked the puck out of Dan Girardi's skates at the Maple Leafs blueline, starting a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Van Riemsdyk skated down left wing before feathering a pass to Kessel on his right, and Kessel buried it to pull the visitors even.
After going nine straight games without scoring a goal, Kessel scored a pair---including the game-winner---in Monday night's 4-3 win over the Rangers and followed it up with another two goals on Wednesday at The Garden. Kessel now has 14 goals on the season.
Roughly a minute after Kessel had tied the game, Toronto nearly took the lead, but Lundqvist made a big-time pad save on Nikolai Kulemin who was breaking in with Michael Del Zotto draped on his back.
The Rangers had numerous chances to regain the lead down the stretch of the third period with Brian Boyle and Darroll Powe crashing the Toronto net for a pair of great opportunities while killing off a Ryane Clowe penalty, and Brad Richards and Callahan both being denied point-blank in the final minutes by Reimer.
After falling behind 1-0 on a Kessel goal just 1:42 into the second period, the Rangers battled back to not only tie the Maple Leafs, but to pull ahead 2-1 before the second intermission arrived. The comeback started to take shape when former Ranger Colton Orr hooked Derick Brassard to the ice at 7:09 after Brassard was sent in on Reimer by a soft lead pass from Mats Zuccarello. Brassard's shot was stopped, but the penalty was called as he crashed into the back boards.
Though the Rangers did not score on the ensuing power play, they kept momentum on their side with some strong work deep in the offenisve zone while skating 5-on-5. Arron Asham, Derek Stepan, and McDonagh applied the pressure and Hagelin finally buried a rebound at 10:55 to tie the game 1-1. Standing to the side of the net, Hagelin corraled the puck after Reimer stopped Stepan's shot, and whipped it into the gaping cage for his ninth goal of the season and first in 11 games. After scoring, Hagelin stretched out his arms, closed his eyes, and tilted his head back in a show of relief.
A slick move by McDonagh helped the Rangers grab their first lead of the night at 16:43 of the second period. After receiving a pass from Brassard, McDonagh juked Toronto's Nazem Kadri at the blueline then wristed a shot over Reimer's shoulder with Callahan setting a perfect screen in front. The goal was McDonagh's fourth of the season, and second in the past four games. Hagelin earned the secondary assist with Brassard earning the primary helper.
Kessel had given the Maple Leafs the lead early in the second with his first goal of the game. In one motion he picked the puck off Callahan's stick and whipped it past a surprised Lundqvist from the right circle.
Twenty-four seconds after the Maple Leafs had grabbed the lead the Rangers Ryane Clowe dropped the gloves with Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser, and the two engaged in a long heavyweight fight. For two rugged teams playing a home-and-home this fight was surprisingly the only open hostility of the night, a few post-whistle skirmishes not withstanding.
Next up for the Rangers is a showdown with the Islanders Saturday night at the Nassau Coliseum.