NEW YORK (Ticker) -- The New York Rangers can only hope this is the start of a big turnaround.
Petr Nedved recorded his seventh career hat trick and Mike Dunham made 23 saves for his 100th NHL win as the Rangers rolled to a 5-1 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
New York won for the third time in four games following a 3-9-2-1 slide. The Rangers have posted consecutive victories for the first time since December 1-3, when they defeated Tampa Bay and Columbus.
"It was an exciting game for us and we got two points," Nedved said. "Nice to get the hat trick and the win. The win is the most important thing. We need to get on a roll. Obviously, it was a good game for us, but every game is like a playoff game and we're not in the playoffs right now. We need to close the gap and now we've got to do it with a nice stretch of five or six games."
| Alyn McCauley scored the Leafs lone goal. |
Graig Abel Photography
The Rangers also have given up one goal in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
"We realized that we can't score goals and get into a run-and-gun shootout and win games all the time," Dunham said.
"We have the talent to score. But defense wins you hockey games, and I think we are starting to realize that."
Coming off Saturday's win in Pittsburgh, New York dominated the first period, holding the Maple Leafs without a shot for the first 12:49 and outshooting them, 16-4.
Nedved's first goal came 4:03 after Eric Lindros netted his 14th and made it 3-0 with 5:58 remaining in the second period.
Nedved recorded his second straight two-goal effort at 5:36 of the third and struck again with 17 seconds left to complete his first hat trick since February 17, 2001.
Nedved came in tied with Pavel Bure for the team lead with 14 goals. He also was tied with Lindros for the team lead before scoring New York's 12th power-play goal in as many games.
Nedved took sole possession of the team lead in goals when he took Lindros' pass off the right boards and lifted a backhander past backup goaltender Trevor Kidd.
After grabbing a rebound of defenseman Joel Bouchard's shot on the doorstep, Nedved slid the puck under Kidd. His third goal came while most of the action was focused around Lindros and Maple Leafs tough guy Tie Domi.
Earlier, Domi tangled with defenseman Vladimir Malakhov and Matthew Barnaby.
Defenseman Darius Kasparaitis also scored for New York and Bobby Holik collected an assist to extend the NHL's longest active points streak to nine games.
With Ed Belfour playing the previous seven games, Kidd got his second start of the season against the Rangers. He fell to 0-5 in seven career games at Madison Square Garden, and Toronto coach Pat Quinn felt he did not get much support.
"We didn't know what we were doing with ourselves as far as positioning tonight," Quinn said. "I don't care if you're Georges Vezina, it's tough to win if you have positioning like we did tonight."
Kidd withstood a barrage of shots during a five-minute power play after Darcy Tucker received a game misconduct for checking Barnaby from behind just 36 seconds into the game. The Rangers fired 14 straight shots before Kasparaitis scored his second goal of the season.
After Holik won a faceoff from Mats Sundin, he got the puck to Kasparaitis just above the left circle. His one-timer slid through traffic and marked the eighth straight game New York scored first.
"We were able to kill off the major, but there is no reason why we shouldn't have been able to play at a solid level after that," Sundin said.
New York had just two power plays but killed five, including a charging penalty on Nedved, who retaliated after taking a shot to the face from Leafs defenseman Wade Belak.
But first-year Rangers coach Bryan Trottier did not mind Nedved aggressiveness.
"We've been playing a little more aggressively and we started taking the body a whole lot better and have cut down our turnovers," Trottier said. "Those are two things that give us a better chance of winning."
Alyn McCauley tallied for Toronto, which has suffered consecutive defeats for the first time since November 8-9. The Maple Leafs have been outshot in 12 of their last 13 games.