By Jim Cerny, BlueshirtsUnited.com
Ryan Callahan fired a wrist shot past Jonas Gustavsson in the third round of the shootout lifting the Rangers to an extremely important 4-3 victory Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. With the win the Rangers now own a three-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins---who were defeated by Ottawa Saturday---for first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers now have 101 points on the season. This is the seventh time in franchise history they have reached 100 points, and first since the 2005-06 season.
After Tim Connolly beat Henrik Lundqvist in the second round of the shootout, New York's Brad Richards---previously 0-8 in the shootout this season---wired a wrist shot top shelf in the second round to pull the Rangers even in the shootout before Callahan scored the winner.
The Rangers had briefly held the lead early in the third period, but that lead lasted only 19 seconds. Marian Gaborik scored his team-high 37th goal---and second of the game---at 4:18, neatly finishing after a soft touch pass between the defensemen from Richards. However that 3-2 lead evaporated on the game's next shift when Connolly hammered a rebound past Lundqvist to score his 12th goal at 4:37, tying the game once again.
The Rangers were able to keep the scored tied at three apiece by expertly killing off three straight Toronto power plays spanning an eight-minute stretch of the final period.
The teams traded goals in each of the first two periods to find themselves in a 2-2 tie heading into the final 20 minutes of play. And twice the Rangers were forced to come back from a one-goal deficit.
After Cody Franson opened the scoring, potting a 2-on-1 feed from Phil Kessel 9:11 into the first period, Gaborik pulled the Rangers even three minutes later. Gaborik snapped a shot from left wing that deflected off Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf's stick and past Gustavsson at 12:19, tying the game 1-1.
Then in the second period Joey Crabb restored Toronto's one-goal advantage, scoring his 10th goal from all alone in front at 6:53. But Brandon Dubinsky---demoted to the fourth line after the Franson goal by head coach John Tortorella---scored from the edge of Gustavsson's crease at 15:29 to make the score 2-2. Dubinsky scored after tossing a Maple Leafs defenseman away from the front of net and converting a John Mitchell pass for his ninth goal of the season.