Toronto, ON – The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their playoff push with a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers in the opener of a key home-and- home series at Air Canada Centre.
Phil Kessel supplied two goals for the Maple Leafs, including the tiebreaking tally 39 seconds after New York had made it 3-3 in the third period.
"I thought we played pretty well tonight as a line," said Kessel. "We caught a couple of bounces and that always helps. This was a big win for us tonight."
The Rangers frantically tried to battle back again, but they came up short.
James van Riemsdyk and Ryan O'Byrne also scored for the Maple Leafs, who have won two straight games and five of six overall. James Reimer made 31 saves.
With 48 points, Toronto owns a four-point edge over Ottawa for the Eastern Conference's fifth seed.
Rick Nash lit the lamp twice and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 24 shots for New York, which had gone 3-0-1 in its previous four games.
"I think I need to make some better reads and just get a little faster," said Lundqvist. "I'm not going to lie, you try to work it through here but I felt a little slow tonight."
The Rangers (42 points) remained tied with the Islanders for the last two playoff spots.
Nash cut to the middle and beat Reimer 2:50 into the third period, trimming New York's deficit to 3-2. Derek Stepan pulled the Rangers even at the nine- minute mark, ripping a shot from the left wing past Reimer one second after a Toronto power play expired.
Kessel, however, collected a feed from Tyler Bozak and slipped home his own rebound to quickly put the Maple Leafs back in front.
A persistent van Riemsdyk opened the scoring at the 11:03 mark of the first period as he took a handful of whacks before pushing the puck past Lundqvist.
O'Byrne, making his Toronto debut following last week's trade from Colorado, joined the rush and scored off a cross-ice feed from Nazem Kadri at 11:28 of the second period.
The Rangers got on the board a little over three minutes later when Nash bulled his way to the Toronto net and put the puck behind Reimer.
Kessel fired a shot through a van Riemsdyk screen and past Lundqvist for a power-play goal with 42 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
Lundqvist had allowed two goals or fewer in each of his previous 10 starts ... The Rangers failed to record at least a point against Toronto for just the third time in their last 14 meetings (9-3-2) ... The Maple Leafs had lost four straight at home to the Rangers ... These teams will meet again Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.