Rangers beat Leafs to move closer to playoff spot

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Rangers pulled within one point of an Eastern Conference playoff position with an easy 5-1 victory over the last-placed Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Erik Christensen scored twice in the first period to help the Rangers to a 3-0 lead and they went on to capture their fourth win in five contests to edge closer to the eighth-placed Boston Bruins with two games remaining.

The Rangers are just two points behind seventh-placed Philadelphia and will be in prime position to pounce on a playoff spot when they close the season with games against the Flyers on Friday and Sunday.

"We wanted to make the Philly games count, and they do now," Rangers coach John Tortorella told reporters, knowing his team can advance to their fifth straight postseason by winning the two contests.

"We don't have to look at the (score) board anymore, because it's right in front of us."

Christensen set the tone with a goal 21 seconds into the game to send New York on their way before Vinny Prospal's wrister made it 2-0.

"He was huge," Brandon Dubinsky, who had two assists, said of team mate Christensen, who scored his second at 10:56 in the first.

"He's been putting a lot of pressure on himself lately to find a way to put the puck in the net. Tonight he got rewarded with all the work he's been putting in leading up to this."

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist rebounded from an early exit on Tuesday to record 26 saves for the Rangers, who ended the third with scores from Olli Jokinen and Aaron Voros.

Lundqvist allowed three goals on 16 shots in his previous game against the Buffalo Sabres.

Dion Phaneuf put Toronto on the board at 8:09 in the third to make it 3-1 but the Maple Leafs fell to their third straight defeat.

Phaneuf's goal was his first in 25 games for Toronto but leading goal scorer Phil Kessel went scoreless for a fifth straight game and recorded just one shot.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, edited by Patrick Johnston)