TORONTO -- This time is wasn't Alexandar Georgiev's birthday, and by no means was this a piece of cake. But all things considered, and when all was said and done, the Rangers had every right to celebrate on Saturday night.
It was all said and done once local boy Ryan Strome ended it, taking a pass from Boo Nieves and banking one off the boot of Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen 1:48 into overtime - Strome's first career OT winner lifting the Rangers to a 2-1 victory over the Maple Leafs, and lifting a weight off the Blueshirts' shoulders after a scuffling couple of weeks.
And it made a winner once again out of Georgiev, who appears to have found the formula this season stifle a Toronto team loaded with offensive talent.
"This feels really good," said Brady Skjei. "It's been a while since we've had this feeling in the locker room."
"We've worked hard the last couple weeks. The results haven't been there and it's been frustrating," said Strome. "It's good to get one against a good team on the road. And in pretty dramatic fashion, too."
The victory snapped the Rangers' skid at five, and perhaps just as gratifying, was their first overtime win since Oct. 11, in game No. 4 of the season. The Rangers had lost nine straight games that were decided in overtime and must have wondered if they would ever catch a break in the 3-on-3.
It was the kid from Mississauga who put a stop to that streak. Strome banked in his winner when Nieves had extended the play after the two had come up empty on a 2-on-1. The Rangers came pouring off the bench to mob the goal-scorer in the corner; at the same time, Strome's family and friends from the Toronto area were reaching out to express some conflicting emotions.
Video: NYR@TOR: Strome nets OT winner for Rangers
"I just checked my phone, I have a bunch of text messages. People are happy, but they're pissed off," said Strome, who had scored only once before in Toronto. "So I couldn't be happier with that result."
Pavel Buchnevich scored the Rangers' regulation goal just 19 seconds into the third, extending his points streak to three games, off the havoc created by Skjei at the net front. Kevin Shattenkirk picked up the other assist and earned praise from his coach afterward for the physical game he played.
With the victory, the Rangers won the three-game season series with Toronto, who lost for the fifth time in seven games. Over their final two games against the NHL's fourth-highest scoring team, the Rangers allowed the Maple Leafs to score a total of two goals in 122 minutes.
Georgiev had a massive hand in that: Back on Feb. 10, the rookie set a Madison Square Garden record for a Ranger goaltender in stopping 55 Maple Leaf shots. On Saturday night, he carried a shutout into the third period, and finished his night with 44 saves in all. Only a Zach Hyman putaway of John Tavares' outstanding setup got past him on this night, during a third period in which he made made 19 of his saves.
Video: NYR@TOR: Georgiev makes multiple saves to end the 1st
Between the Feb. 10 game and the third period on Saturday night, Georgiev at one point had stopped 71 consecutive shots from the Maple Leafs. All told, he made 99 saves on 101 shots (.980) in the two victories.
"It's a great win for Georgie," Strome said. "He really deserves this one."
"Great feeling," Georgiev said. "I know they're a really tough team to play. I know that I have to bring my best game to be able to win (against) those guys."
Still, as David Quinn said, "Obviously our goalie was huge, but we did a lot of good things too. I thought we defended pretty well; a lot of times there were loose pucks laying in front of our net and we did a good job of defending and clearing out."
They also never let the Leafs connect on the stretch passes they kept trying, and did plenty of work to clog shooting lanes: 13 different Rangers skaters blocked at least one shot. There were 33 blocked shots in all, John Gilmour leading the way with seven of them.
Skjei said that with the way the last couple weeks have gone, "it gets to the point where it's just like, you're doing anything it takes to win. I'm not saying the games before we weren't, but it feels good to just see guys blocking shots, some big blocks, some heavy shots that are definitely going to leave bruises.
"When you have guys laying it on the line like that, it's pretty motivating. Everybody stepped up tonight."
It was Skjei himself who stepped up on the opening shift of the third, firing from a sharp angle and aiming for Andersen in hopes of a rebound. A rebound he got, and he followed his shot to poke it free from a scramble of falling players in front - sliding it to Buchnevich, who shot it through Andersen for his third goal in five game and his sixth in the last 10.
Video: NYR@TOR: Buchnevich buries loose puck to open scoring
"I was kind of trying to throw it and try to get the bounce out in front and luckily it did, kind of a mad scramble," Skjei said. "Me and Pepe (Brendan Lemieux) were both trying to get it, and luckily the puck went right to Buch."
The Leafs broke up Georgiev's shutout and evened the score with 11:27 to play, when Tavares settled a pop-fly rebound and sent a no-look pass to set up Hyman with an open net.
The tie held into overtime - thanks in part to Georgiev robbing Tavares and Nazem Kadri in quick succession on a late Leafs power play. The Rangers killed all three Toronto man-advantages on Saturday and were 9-for-9 on the penalty kill this season against the Leafs, who had 36 shots on goal in those nine power plays.
But once Georgiev stopped Auston Matthews early in the OT, Nieves passed one behind the net to set up Strome's winner.
"Just really proud of our guys," Quinn said. "I mean, it's been a tough stretch, as we've all talked about. To come up here in this building and get two points against this team, who's in the middle of a playoff battle for positioning and seeding and home ice, says an awful lot about our character."