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Leafs rally to beat Rangers 3-2 in OT

by Jeremy Sandler
TORONTO -- Both the silence inside the New York Rangers locker room and the expletives their goaltender Henrik Lundqvist used to describe it neatly encapsulated the emotions of coach John Tortorella's team following a punch to the gut for their playoff drive.

Nikolai Kulemin's 16th goal of the season 39 seconds into overtime gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 win just minutes after defenseman Tomas Kaberle tied the game 2-2 on an ugly goal with 3:35 left in the third period.

"Unfortunately, I let in [bleeping] terrible goal and they tied the game late, and I'm really [bleeping] [bleeped] right now," said Lundqvist, upset about the Kaberle goal which started as a pass from the corner that practically traveled along the goal line before going in off Lundqvist's left skate. "I timed it bad. I tried to kick it to the side and kicked it too early and it hit my skate and it went in."

The Swedish goalie finished with 29 saves on 32 shots, but could only focus on his mistakes after being outdueled by fellow countryman Jonas Gustavsson. The rookie goaltender stopped 36 of 38 shots for the Leafs.

"Of all the chanced they had, they scored on a shot like that, it's frustrating but that's the way it is," said Lundqvist. "We just have to move on here. I guess we got a point. But it's really frustrating."

New York's loss in the second game of a crucial six-game road trip dropped the 10th place squad another point behind seventh-place Boston and ninth-place Atlanta, who both won on Saturday.

It also kept the Rangers from gaining more than a single point on an injury-riddled Philadelphia Flyers team that fell 4-1 to Pittsburgh for its fifth straight loss.

The plummeting Flyers have now lost seven of eight games and are barely hanging on to the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.

To make matters worse, the Rangers may have lost forward Sean Avery to a knee injury. The winger left the ice and did not return following a seemingly innocuous second-period collision with Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn.

"I haven't seen it," Avery said when asked what he thought of the hit as he limped through the corridor outside the visitor's room in the Air Canada Centre.

Avery, who was not on crutches, said he did not yet know the extent of the injury, though Tortorella's comments seemed to indicate it could be serious enough to keep him out of the lineup indefinitely.

"It hurts the club," said Tortorella, who has gotten three goals and six points out of Avery since sitting him for a game earlier this month. "He has really focused in here the past couple of weeks. He's been a big part of us trying to find a way. That's a tough break, not only for him, but more importantly for the hockey club."

New York's coach would not point the finger at Lundqvist for the loss.

"Hank's going to be fine, he's going to be the reason why we get in," said Tortorella while praising Gustavsson and lamenting his team's missed opportunities for an insurance goal. "You don't get that third one, it just leaves that door open for what happened. But our guys tried. I thought we defended well, I thought we played a good hockey game. So we'll take the point and we'll keep fighting."

A penalty-free first period did not come without action, especially in Toronto's end, where Gustavsson faced 15 shots.

Minor-league callup P.A. Parenteau's second goal of the season and second NHL goal gave New York a 1-0 lead 10:25 into the first period.

Paranteau, who was recalled from Hartford of the AHL because of injuries to Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle, wheeled around with a weak shot that snuck under Gustavsson's right foot to put New York ahead.

With 11 seconds in the opening period, Brandon Dubinsky put the visitors up 2-0 with a wraparound goal.

Gustavsson's momentary confusion as the Rangers winger went behind the net made Toronto's goalie just late diving across the crease in an attempt to stop Dubinsky.

John Mitchell put Toronto on the scoreboard just 1:33 into the second, tapping in Mikhail Grabovski's pass from behind the net to cut New York's lead to 2-1 and wake up the announced crowd of 19,405.

Veteran blueliner Anders Eriksson, another call up from Hartford, took former Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy's spot in New York's lineup and did not look out of place in just over 14 minutes of ice time.

Toronto has now won seven straight contests that have gone beyond regulation time.

The last place Maple Leafs have also won five of six and seven of nine games to crawl within three points of Florida and Carolina.

Jeremy Sandler covers sports for the National Post newspaper in Toronto.

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