NHL: Kessel Lifts Maple Leafs, 4-3
TORONTO (AP) – Phil Kessel scored twice to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 4-3 victory against the New York Rangers on Monday night to open an important home-and-home series between the Eastern Conference rivals.
Kessel scored his first goals in 10 games as Toronto remained fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, moving four points ahead of idle Ottawa with their fifth win in six games.
Derek Stepan pulled New York into a 3-3 tie at 9:00 of the third period, converting a 2-on-1 break for his 14th of the season just as a Leafs’ power play expired.
But Kessel put Toronto back ahead just 39 seconds later with his 12th of the season.
The victory was redemption for Toronto, which couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead against New York at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 26 en route to dropping a 5-2 decision.
The Rangers remain tied with the idle New York Islanders for seventh in the Eastern Conference with 42 points.
Toronto is chasing its first playoff berth since 2003-04 and visits New York on Wednesday night in the final regular-season meeting between the teams. James van Riemsdyk and Ryan O’Byrne also scored for Toronto, which is 11-7-2 at home.
Rick Nash had the other two goals for New York, which fell to 7-10-2 on the road this season.
Van Riemsdyk had the lone goal of an overly cautious first – Toronto outshot New York 8-7 but the Rangers put two shots off the post. Henrik Lundqvist made the initial save of an open van Riemsdyk in front before the Leafs’ forward banged the rebound in at 11:04 for his 16th of the season.
BOSTON (AP) – Brad Marchand scored two goals, Tuukka Rask stopped 40 shots, and Boston scored a season-high in goals while winning for the fourth time in five games.
Rich Peverley, Andrew Ference, Jordan Caron and Nathan Horton each added a goal, and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg established a career-high with three assists for Boston, which moved a point behind Montreal in the Northeast Division.
Patrick Dwyer and Drayson Bowman scored for the Hurricanes, who lost for the 12th time in 13 games, 11 of them coming in regulation.
Carolina has allowed four or more goals in 10 of its last 14.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.