Updated at: 04/10/2013 10:35 PM
By IRA PODELL
(AP) NEW YORK - Mats Zuccarello scored the lone goal in the shootout, and the New York Rangers overcame another two-goal performance by Toronto’s Phil Kessel to beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday night.
The Rangers moved back into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Zuccarello, called out before the game by Rangers coach John Tortorella to score more, connected in the second round of the tiebreaker against James Reimer. Henrik Lundqvist turned aside all three Toronto shooters, and the Rangers (20-16-4) moved into a flat-footed tie with the New York Islanders, who had claimed seventh on Tuesday.
The area rivals will meet Saturday on Long Island.
The Ottawa Senators also are even with the Rangers and Islanders with 44 points at the bottom of the East race. Toronto has 49 points.
Carl Hagelin and defenseman Ryan McDonagh both had a goal and assist in the second period for the Rangers, who carried a 2-1 lead into the third. New York is 12-0-0 this season when leading after two and 82-0-6, dating to the 2009-10 season.
The teams engaged in a very spirited overtime that featured chances at both ends and only one stoppage of play in the 5-minute period. Lundqvist kept the Rangers in it with a series of in-close saves, culminating with a stop with his arm to deny Nazem Kadri.
Toronto outshot New York 4-2 in overtime but trailed 28-25 overall.
Kessel powered the Maple Leafs for a second consecutive game in three days against the Rangers. After getting a pair of goals and an assist in Toronto’s 4-3 home win over New York on Monday, Kessel struck again for two more goals, including the tying tally 8:05 into the third period.
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi turned over the puck at the right point, and James van Riemsdyk raced up ice alone. He was joined by Kessel, who took a cross-zone pass and slammed in a shot to make it 2-2.
The Rangers had failed to increase their lead during a pair of power plays early in the third period, but generated prime scoring chances after the game was tied. Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan were both denied on the doorstep by Reimer.
Toronto also failed to take the lead when it received its second power play with 8:32 left in regulation. Then the Maple Leafs were content to let the final seconds of regulation run out as they held the puck in their end without mounting a rush.
The Maple Leafs came out strong at the start of the second period, grabbed the lead, and showed signs that perhaps they were poised to sweep the home-and-home series and leave the Rangers behind them for good.
After all, Kessel struck again and made it 1-0 just 1:42 into the second with an unassisted goal, and the Maple Leafs soon after earned the first power play of the game.
But the Rangers killed it off and began to turn the tide once they managed their first shot of the period at around the midway point during a power play of their own.
New York didn’t convert on that advantage, but the Rangers kept up the pressure and got even on Hagelin’s ninth goal of the season.
Hagelin worked hard behind the Toronto net and nearly scored on a jam shot. The Rangers retained possession in the Leafs’ end, and Derek Stepan let go a shot that Reimer stopped. Hagelin got the rebound and took a shot from along the goal line to Reimer’s left that found its way in.
McDonagh gave the Rangers their first lead in the two games when he stick-handled along the center of the blue line and snapped off a drive that knuckled through traffic. It fluttered past a screened Reimer, who didn’t seem to react until the puck ruffled the back of the net.
Reimer looked very steady at the other end two nights after he stymied the Rangers by making 31 saves.
NOTES: Stepan has a career-best, six-game point streak (four goals, five assists). ... Kessel leads Maple Leafs players with seven goals, eight assists and 15 points in 24 career games against the Rangers. ... Toronto is 0-5 in shootouts.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)