NEW YORK -- Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan and Cam Talbot helped the New York Rangers end a franchise-record nine-game homestand on a high note.
Zuccarello and Stepan scored in the shootout to give the New York Rangers a 2-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
Zuccarello scored in the first round of the tiebreaker on a soft shot that found the top corner and Stepan rifled a shot by Jonathan Bernier's blocker in the second. Toronto's Joffrey Lupul extended the game by beating Talbot, but the Rangers' backup goaltender ended the game by stopping Nazem Kadri's wrister in the third round.
The win was the second in as many nights for the Rangers, who entered the Christmas break after finishing their long homestand with a 3-4-2 record. Talbot was in goal for victories against the Minnesota Wild and Maple Leafs after starter Henrik Lundqvist went 1-4-2 in the first seven games.
"It is safe to say that we're leaving for the holidays on a much happier note," said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who would not divulge his starter for New York's next game, Friday night against the Washington Capitals. "It's going to be a pleasant three days."
Kadri gave the Maple Leafs (18-16-5) a point when he scored with 1:24 remaining in regulation and Bernier made 42 saves. J.T. Miller opened the scoring 7:04 into the third period and Talbot stopped 25 of 26 shots for New York (18-18-2).
The shootout loss came after Bernier kept Toronto in the game by making more than 40 saves for the third time in his past 10 appearances. But despite his brilliant performance through 65 minutes, Bernier wasn't happy with his performance in the tiebreaker.
"When you give up two goals in the shootout, most of the time you will lose. So I've got to be better in the shootout," said Bernier, who admitted to not paying much attention to New York's 43-26 shot advantage. "I don't really look at that. You're going to have a stretch in the season where we dominate and another stretch where they get more shots. I actually thought that except for the second period we kept pretty much everything to the outside."
Toronto was outplayed for long stretches, particularly in that lopsided second period, but forced overtime when Kadri poked a loose puck into the net 10 seconds after the Rangers' Chris Kreider finished serving a delay of game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass. David Clarkson took the puck hard to the net and whacked away while it was wedged in Talbot's left pad. The play was never whistled dead and Kadri poked the puck into the net to tie the game. A video review confirmed the goal, Kadri's 11th of the season, a decision Vigneault protested.
"In my opinion, that was the wrong call. The referee had told Brad [Richards] on the ice that if they didn't score on [Clarkson's] wraparound it wasn't a goal," Vigneault said. "They didn't score on the wraparound. Kadri came in from the middle and poked it in underneath Cam's pad. You've just got to play through those things and that's what we did."
Before Kadri's goal, the Rangers appeared on their way to winning in regulation after Miller opened the scoring in the third.
Kreider set up the game's first goal by using his body to maintain puck possession behind the Toronto net before finding Miller as he was streaking into the slot after coming off the bench. Miller beat Bernier to the blocker side for his second of the season.
Miller's first goal since Nov. 10 punctuated a strong performance for the 20-year-old, who was recalled from the American Hockey League on Dec. 6 after being sent down twice this season.
"He's been good. He's been effective. The time he's been on the ice, he's been dependable," said Vigneault, who moved Miller to center after playing him on the wing in his previous stints with the club. "Maybe it's him playing his natural position, but he's done some real good things for us. He's progressing as a player."
Miller's goal came just over two minutes after Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin almost broke the scoreless tie. Talbot got a piece of Clarkson's centering feed from behind the net, but Kulemin managed to get off a shot from in close that bounced off the inside of the far post and slid along the goal line. A video review confirmed that the puck didn't cross the goal line.
After a first period in which both teams had chances on the rush, the Rangers completely dominated the second period. They outshot the Maple Leafs 22-5 and earned four power plays but couldn't get anything past Bernier.
They earned some quality chances early in the second, as Ryan McDonagh's hard wrist shot from the left point ricocheted off the right post 5:31 into the period. Miller had a prime chance from the slot 23 seconds later after taking Benoit Pouliot's pass from the half-wall but was stopped by Bernier.
Despite the one-sided second period, the Maple Leafs still felt confident heading into the third of a scoreless game.
"I think our goal was to go in the third and be even. That's what we did," Bernier said. "Any game on the road, if you're in a 0-0 game going into the third, that's what you want. We got an extra point there. A big point."
The Rangers weren't happy about giving away a lead late in a game that saw them outshoot Toronto 31-13 in the second and third periods. But going 3-1-1 in the final five games of their marathon homestand made the Christmas break a lot happier.
"You never want to give up a goal late in the third period. I think as a group we knew there was nothing we could do about it. They weren't going to change it after they awarded the goal," Stepan said. "As a group, you just try to move on from it and try to rebound as fast as you can."