TORONTO - Phil Kessel scored twice, including the go-ahead goal at 9:39 of the third period, as the Toronto Maple Leafs withstood a New York Rangers comeback to earn a 4-3 victory Monday at Air Canada Centre.
James van Riemsdyk and Ryan O'Byrne also scored for Toronto with Kessel adding an assist.
Rick Nash scored twice for the Rangers and Derek Stepan scored the other NewYork goal.
New York scored twice in the third period to tie the game 3-3 after trailing 3-1 after two periods.
But Kessel came through with his 12th goal of the season.
The Maple Leafs (22-13-4) moved six points ahead of the Rangers (19-16-4) in the playoff race with the victory that tied the season series 1-1. The teams meet again Wednesday in New York.
The Leafs snapped a string of 10 consecutive games in which Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had not allowed more than two goals. He stopped 24 of 28 shots on Monday, while Toronto goaltender James Reimer stopped 31 of 34 shots.
The Rangers hit a goal post twice in the early going of the first period, but the Maple Leafs scored first when van Riemsdyk jammed the puck past Lundqvist on his third try at 11:03. It was his 16th goal of the season.
Defenseman John-Michael Liles set up the chance when he passed the puck in front from the corner. The goal came about 20 seconds after Dan Girardi rang a 39-footer off the post behind Reimer for the Rangers.
The Leafs had the first good chance of the second period when Lundqvist stopped Liles slapshot from 62 feet and Kessel put the rebound wide.
That came after each team had taken turns bottling the other up in their defensive zone without accomplishing much.
The Maple Leafs took a 2-0 lead at 11:28 of the second on a 26-foot shot by O'Byrne after he took a cross-ice pass from the right wing from Nazem Kadri. It was O'Byrne's second goal of the season and his first with the Leafs.
The Rangers replied at 15:05 on Nash's 16th goal of the season. He swooped in from the left wing after taking a pass from Stepan and stuffed the puck into the goal from short range. A video review confirmed that it was not kicked in.
The Maple Leafs regained their two-goal lead on Kessel's power play goal at 19:18 with assists to Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson. Ryan Callahan was off for holding. The 42-foot wrist shot gave Kessel his 11th goal of the season.
After the Leafs had the better of play in the first two minutes of the third period, Nash scored again on a clever move at 2:50. He dashed in from the right wing, cut in front of the goal and flicked the puck over Reimer from seven feet away. Soon after Reimer made a flopping save on Ryan Clowe's shot from close in.
The Rangers tied it on Stepan's 14th goal at nine minutes on an unassisted solo effort from the left wing.
But Kessel put Toronto ahead 39 seconds later on an eight-foot wrist shot on his own rebound.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs were without forward Joffrey Lupul (head) who missed his second game in a row. He was on a seven-game point streak when he was injured against Philadelphia on April 4. There is no date set for his return but has resumed skating with the team...The Rangers were without Michael Sauer (concussion), Marc Staal (eye), Derek Dorsett (collarbone) and J.T. Miller (wrist). ...The teams meet again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. ....The Rangers beat the Maple Leafs 5-2 in their previous meeting this year, Jan. 26. The teams meet three times this season. ...The Rangers entered Monday's game 2-0-1 since trading Marian Gaborik to Columbus on April 3 for Dorsett, Brassard and John Moore.