Kreider didn't play Monday, a 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars, because of an upper-body injury he sustained Saturday when Zibanejad accidentally kneed him in the head. He was considered a game-time decision, but scored his 19th goal, including his seventh in 10 games.
"He's a huge part of our team, and a leader," Zibanejad said. "You can watch those two games, with him and without him, [and see] how big of a difference he makes."
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Pavel Buchnevich, the third forward on the line with Kreider and Zibanejad, had a goal, two assists and a plus-4 rating. Igor Shesterkin made 27 saves.
The Rangers (26-22-4) are nine points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"It was a great win for us," Rangers coach David Quinn said.
Video: TOR@NYR: Buchnevich goes five-hole on wrist shot
Auston Matthews scored two goals, and Michael Hutchinson, starting in place of the injured Frederik Andersen (neck), made 30 saves for the Maple Leafs (28-19-7), who are one point behind the Florida Panthers for third place in the Atlantic Division.
The Maple Leafs made a trade following the game, acquiring goalie Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings for forward Trevor Moore, the Columbus Blue Jackets' third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft that they originally acquired from the Ottawa Senators, and a conditional third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Andersen is considered day to day.
"We continue to have these lulls throughout the game where we're just not playing our best, and the chances we're giving up, just too many 2-on-1s, odd-man rushes," Matthews said. "They were a bit egregious. That's where we're at."
Video: TOR@NYR: Matthews puts home backhander from the slot
John Tavares gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 7:36 of the first period, but the Rangers tied it 1-1 at 8:50 when Filip Chytil scored on a tip-in from the left post off a cross-ice, diagonal pass from Tony DeAngelo.
"We did get a good start, set us up really well … but it's very disappointing that we weren't able to build upon that," Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. "Instead, we gave it back, dug ourselves a hole that we just weren't able to get out of."
The Rangers went up 2-1 on Zibanejad's goal at 17:18, a near-side shot from the left circle off a face-off win by Kreider against Matthews. They tied it six seconds later on Kreider's goal off the rush after Zibanejad won the center-ice face-off, also against Matthews.
"The second goal, it's a bang-bang play off a face-off, we'll give them that one," Keefe said. "But then to not be alive and ready right off the drop of the next one, that's just making life real hard on your goalie. We don't like that."
Matthews scored at 16:56 of the second period to cut the lead to 3-2, but Buchnevich scored 34 seconds later, making it 4-2 with a shot that beat Hutchinson, who was unable to settle himself moments after falling down, losing his stick and getting it back.
"The fourth goal is pretty defeating and devastating, frankly," Keefe said. "We need a save there."
Video: TOR@NYR: Matthews pots PPG for second goal
Matthews scored on the power play at 16:32 of the third to make it 4-3, but Greg McKegg scored into an empty net at 19:02 for the 5-3 final.
"The way we responded to their goals was really good from our side," Zibanejad said. "It's easy to get down on yourself when they score. They're really good at riding on their momentum, and I thought we did a good job killing it and creating our own."
They said it
"We just need to put together a full 60 minutes. I thought a couple games back we did a lot of good things, played really well. Then the other night against Florida, 45-50 minutes of really good hockey, but just the chances we give up when we're not dominating games, they're just too much and the other teams are capitalizing on them." -- Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews
"Kreider coming back from a scary incident and missing one game, I give him a lot of credit for stepping in and picking up really where he left off. He didn't have any rust, no apprehension on his part. I thought Buchnevich was outstanding tonight too. He really bounced back from a tough night. And Mika was really good." -- Rangers coach David Quinn
Need to know
The Rangers' two goals in six seconds is two seconds slower than their record of two goals in four seconds (Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash, Oct. 19, 2014 against the San Jose Sharks). … Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci left in the third period with an undisclosed injury. … Tavares' goal was his 20th of the season, giving him at least that many in all 11 of his NHL seasons. … Nylander had an assist to extend his point streak to nine games (six goals, five assists). … Matthews' two goals give him 150 in 266 NHL games.
Maple Leafs: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Friday (7 p.m. ET; SNO, PRIME, NHL.TV)
Rangers: Host the Buffalo Sabres on Friday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, MSG, MSG-B, NHL.TV)
Video: Buchnevich, Zibanejad propel Rangers past Maple Leafs