NEW YORK – Derek Stepan and Marian Gaborik both scored tiebreaking goals in the third period, and the New York Rangers held on to beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Sunday.
Gaborik gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead 3:14 into the third with his 32nd goal, but David Krejci tied it for Boston at 11:42. The Bruins barely had time to celebrate before Stepan ripped a drive from the left circle that sailed past stunned goalie Tim Thomas and under the crossbar 39 seconds later.
The Rangers topped Boston for the fifth straight time, dating to last season, and opened a 12-point lead over the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins in the Eastern Conference playoff race. New York's closest pursuer is Atlantic Division-rival Pittsburgh, which is 10 points behind.
Gaborik put the Rangers in front after Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg tried to get the puck out of danger behind the Bruins net. Seidenberg banked the puck off the end boards, but it caromed right to Gaborik, who made a quick shift from forward to backhand at the left post and scored past Thomas.
The Rangers were held to only 17 shots, but got the best of Thomas, who lost for the second straight day. Thomas came on in relief Saturday against the New York Islanders after starter Tuukka Rask was injured. Boston was beaten for the seventh time in 11 games (4-6-1).
Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves and bounced back from a 4-3 overtime loss at Tampa Bay on Friday. Anton Stralman and Carl Hagelin also scored for the Rangers, who have won nine of 13 (9-2-2).
Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron had the other goals for Boston.
Just as they did against Tampa Bay, the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead and then gave it away. But they recovered in time to beat the Bruins for the third time in three meetings this season.
New York lost the original lead largely because of sloppy play by its defensemen. Bad giveaways by Stralman and Dan Girardi lead directly to Boston's first two goals.
With about 8 minutes gone in the first period, Stralman — who a few minutes earlier doubled the Rangers' lead — tried to clear the puck out of his zone but instead had it picked off. Caron got the puck to Pouliot, who fired a drive past Lundqvist at 7:57.
Girardi got caught trying to move the puck up ice while the Bruins were in the midst of a line change. His attempt to get the puck out of his end was intercepted by Caron, who then ripped a drive by Lundqvist to tie it 1:40 into the second. It was his fourth goal of the season.
Until then it was all Rangers, at least on the scoreboard.
Stralman gave them a 1-0 lead when he kept the puck in at the left point, curled to the top of the circle and then ripped a shot that found its way between Thomas and the left post at 5:05.
Just 1:10 later, the Rangers took advantage of the shaky Thomas again. Girardi fired the puck from his own end, and a deflection by Brad Richards negated a potential icing call.
It didn't matter as the speedy Hagelin beat the Bruins up ice, and carried the puck behind the net. He flung the puck in front, and as teammate Brandon Dubinsky crashed the crease, the puck hit Boston defenseman Greg Zanon, who was down in the blue paint, and bounced past Thomas.
The goal was originally credited to Dubinsky, but changed to Hagelin when video replay revealed that the puck never touched Dubinsky.
Bruins coach Claude Julien then used his timeout, and his team responded. Pouliot cut the deficit in half just 1:39 later, and Boston gradually took over the game.
The Bruins held New York to only eight shots in the first period and 11 through 40 minutes. Boston fired 24 pucks at Lundqvist in the first two periods and held a big edge in possession time.
NOTES: The final 2:53 of the first period was tacked onto the start of the second after a shot by Boston's Brian Rolston broke a pane of glass behind the New York net. ... Rangers captain Ryan Callahan missed his third straight game because of a bruised foot. D Michael Del Zotto returned after a one-game absence (hip). ... The Rangers have won nine of 11 against Boston. ... Bruins LW Lane MacDermid, in his NHL debut, fought Mike Rupp 2:30 into the game. There were three fights in the first period. ... Boston was without Rask and LW Daniel Paille, who were both injured Saturday in a home loss to the New York Islanders.