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Maple Leafs shoot for second straight over Rangers

by Dave Lozo

MAPLE LEAFS (22-13-4) at RANGERS (19-16-4)


Last 10: Toronto 7-1-2; New York 4-4-2

Season series: This is the third and final meeting, with each team picking up a regulation win at home. The Maple Leafs won 4-3 at Air Canada Centre on Monday in the first half of this home-and-home series.

Big story: While the Leafs appear nestled into a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's the Rangers who will likely find themselves in a fight to reach the postseason over the final three weeks. The Rangers started Tuesday tied for seventh with the Islanders at 42 points, just two points ahead of ninth-place New Jersey Devils and 10th-place Winnipeg Jets.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Since a five-game losing streak in mid-March, the Leafs have powered their way into fifth in the East and securely in the top eight. They are 7-1-2 since that stretch and despite wasting a two-goal lead Monday, Phil Kessel quickly answered the Rangers' tying goal in the third period with the winner 39 seconds later.

Kessel's two goals Monday ended a nine-game goal drought. Despite sitting eight points ahead of ninth-place New Jersey, the Leafs don't feel secure just yet.

"It was an important game for us, it moved us up a couple more points up in the standings," Kessel said. "(A playoff berth) is still far away, we still have nine games left so we have to focus on these last nine games and play well and hopefully get in."

Rangers: As the Rangers have been doing all season when it looks like they are turning a corner or flipping a switch, they suffered a loss that left them sitting near the cut-off line for the playoffs.

Despite a two-goal rally in the third period, they left Toronto without a point and disappointed about the result.

"That next shift after a goal is so important and we didn't get the job done," said Rick Nash about Kessel's winner. "We're a desperate hockey team. We're desperate for points and we knew we were playing a good game. The third period was good -- we were all over them. It just came down to a breakdown after that big goal."

Who's hot: Rangers center Derek Stepan has four goals and four assists in five April games. Nash has four goals in the past three games.

Injury report: New York remains without defenseman Marc Staal (eye), but he skated before the team's practice Tuesday and is targeting a return before season's end. … Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul (upper body) remains out and without a timetable to return.

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