New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello each scored during the shootout to give the New York Rangers a hard-fought 2-1 decision over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Madison Square Garden.
J.T. Miller netted the Rangers' lone regulation goal and Cam Talbot stopped 25-of-26 shots through three periods and overtime to help New York close out a franchise-record nine-game homestand on a high note. The Blueshirts went just 3-4-2 on the residency, but followed up a 4-1 victory over Minnesota on Sunday with Monday's result.
"It's safe to say that we are leaving for the holidays on a much happier note," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "We packed our bags, so it's going to be a pleasant three days [off]."
Toronto fell for the ninth time in its last 10 road assignments despite a terrific 42-save performance from Jonathan Bernier and a clutch goal from Nazem Kadri, who tallied on a power play with just 1:24 left in the third period to force overtime.
"Our goaltender stood on his head," Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle remarked. "That's all you can ask in a game like this one."
Bernier's outstanding effort through 65 minutes brought about the shootout, but he couldn't sustain that level of play during the deciding phase. Zuccarello opened it up with a shot over the Maple Leafs' netminder's glove and Stepan beat him stick-side after Toronto's James van Riemsdyk struck the post to end the first round.
Joffrey Lupul kept the Leafs alive with a successful attempt into the right corner, but Talbot closed up to thwart Kadri's five-hole try to give New York the two points.
Toronto seemed on the verge of a regulation defeat, but came up with a controversial goal after New York's Chris Kreider was sent off for shooting the puck over the glass with 3:34 remaining in the third period.
Talbot appeared to cover up David Clarkson's chance in-close on the man advantage, but the whistle never blew and Kadri alertly pushed the puck over the line with only 84 seconds to go.
"In my opinion, that was the wrong call," said Vigneault. "The referee told [the Rangers'] Brad (Richards) on the ice that if they didn't score on the wraparound, then it wasn't a goal. They didn't score on the wraparound."
Bernier kept the game scoreless into the final period with a stupendous 22-save display during the second, but the Rangers finally were able to break through with just over seven minutes elapsed in the third.
Miller raced into the Maple Leafs' zone off the bench to take in a behind-the- net feed from Kreider, then landed a well-placed wrister past Bernier to break the stalemate.
Toronto nearly went ahead moments earlier, as Nikolai Kulemin hit the post from in close before New York defenseman Dan Girardi was able to keep the puck from crossing the line.
Talbot came up with 10 saves, including a stop of Mason Raymond on a partial breakaway, during an otherwise uneventful opening period.
The Rangers then outshot the Leafs by a 22-5 margin in the second, but only got as close as Ryan McDonagh's long drive that clanged off the right post around 5 1/2 minutes into the session.
The Rangers have had three of their last five games go to a shootout after not having one in their first 33 contests of the season ... New York won back-to- back games for the first time since Nov. 21-23 ... The Rangers have prevailed in five of the six matchups between the Original Six clubs while recording a point in 13 of their last 16 meetings with Toronto ... New York forward Benoit Pouliot extended his point streak to five games with an assist on Miller's goal ... Toronto forward Colton Orr returned from a 10-game absence caused by an elbow injury.