NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist has been "The King" of New York since his rookie season.
On a night when his team needed him the most, royalty reigned.
Lundqvist made 23 saves in regulation and overtime, and he didn't allow a goal in the shootout as the New York Rangers earned a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"It's such an important game," Lundqvist said. "I thought we played a really strong game, and I'm happy we got the two points."
Lundqvist stopped Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski in the skills competition, and Toronto's Nazem Kadri shot wide of the net. Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal in the shootout, beating Leafs goalie James Reimer.
Prior to the game, John Tortorella was adamant that Zuccarello needed to provide offense. Zuccarello entered the night with just two assists in six games after signing a deal with New York following the end of his Kontinental Hockey League team's season.
"It feels great," Zuccarello said about the shootout winner. "It's about time. I'm just happy to help the team get two points."
New York (20-16-4) moved into a tie with the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders for the final three playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, each with 44 points. The Senators have played 39 games, one fewer than the Rangers and Islanders. The Winnipeg Jets sit in ninth place with 42 points through 41 games.
"Yeah, a point," Tortorella said when asked if the shootout in this match had any additional importance. "This time of year, it's a huge thing for us.
"That's a big, big win for us. To get the two points is really important at this time of year."
Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh each scored a goal and had an assist for the Rangers.
Phil Kessel scored twice for Toronto (22-13-5), which holds fifth place in the conference with 49 points. Kessel's second goal, which tied the game at 2-2 just over eight minutes into the third period, ended Toronto's shot-less streak of 24:33 spanning the second and third periods.
"There were seven or eight minutes in the second period where we let the game get away from us and it seemed to shift," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We didn't have a very good power play in creating zone time, and it's going to change the flow of the game."
Kessel has scored three goals in the past two games, both against New York. His 14 goals this season are third most on the Leafs, behind Kadri (17) and linemate James van Riemsdyk (16).
Following a scoreless opening period, Kessel opened the scoring 1:42 into the second by ripping a loose puck past Lundqvist. Dion Phaneuf's centering pass for Bozak appeared to ricochet off a New York skate. Kessel slid behind Ryan Callahan before taking the shot.
Hagelin equalized 9:13 after Kessel's first goal. Stationed alongside the goal line, the New York left wing lifted a McDonagh rebound over Reimer, who made 26 saves.
McDonagh gave New York a 2-1 lead nearly six minutes later. The defenseman slammed a shot from the top of the slot past a screened Reimer.
"We didn't play fast like we normally do, and consequently we gave up two goals," Carlyle said. "We can't afford to do that at this time of year."
NOTES: The Rangers won two of three in the season series. New York beat Toronto 5-2 at the Garden on Jan. 26. The Leafs evened the series with a 4-3 win at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night. ... The Rangers sent rookie winger J.T. Miller to Connecticut of the AHL on Monday because "he needs to play," according to Tortorella. Miller had two goals and four points in 26 games along with a minus-seven rating. "I think he has a bright future," Tortorella said. "But the future is not right now." ... The Leafs are trying to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04. One of the primary reasons for Toronto's success has been its consistency. The Leafs are 11-7-2 at the Air Canada Centre and 11-6-3 on the road. Seven Leafs players have scored at least 20 points, led by Kadri's 40. ...The Rangers improved to 222-273-95-6 all time against Toronto. ...The Leafs went 0-for-2 on their only two power plays. New York was 0-for-3 with the man advantage. ... New York has a practice scheduled for Friday morning to prepare for Saturday night's game on Long Island against the Islanders. ... Toronto's next game is against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.