Phil Kessel scored twice to lead the Maple Leafs to a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night in Toronto to open an important home-and-home series between the Eastern Conference rivals.
Kessel scored his first goals in 10 games as Toronto remained fifth in the East standings, moving four points ahead of idle Ottawa with their fifth win in six games.
Derek Stepan pulled New York into a 3-3 tie at 9:00 of the third period, converting a 2-on-1 break for his 14th of the season just as a Leafs power play expired. But Kessel put Toronto back ahead just 39 seconds later with his 12th of the season.
The victory was redemption for Toronto, which couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead against New York at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 26 en route to dropping a 5-2 decision.
The Rangers remain tied with the idle Islanders for seventh in the Eastern Conference with 42 points.
Toronto is chasing its first playoff berth since 2003-04 and visits New York on Wednesday night in the final regular-season meeting between the teams.
‘‘It has been a while,’’ Kessel said. ‘‘You just learn they [goals] will come eventually.
‘‘It was an important game for us, it moved us up a couple more points up in the standings. [A playoff berth] is still far away, we still have nine games left so we have to focus on these last nine games and play well and hopefully get in.’’
James van Riemsdyk and Ryan O’Byrne also scored for Toronto, which is 11-7-2 at home.
Rick Nash had the other two goals for New York, which fell to 7-10-2 on the road.
Van Riemsdyk had the lone goal of an overly cautious first — Toronto outshot New York, 8-7, but the Rangers put two shots off the post. Henrik Lundqvist made the initial save on an open van Riemsdyk in front before the Leafs forward banged the rebound in at 11:04 for his 16th of the season.
O’Byrne, obtained at the trade deadline, put Toronto ahead, 2-0, at 11:28 of the second, taking a nice setup pass from Nazem Kadri and firing a shot past Lundqvist.
Ducks 2, Oilers 1 — Radek Dvorak scored two goals, Jonas Hiller made 27 saves after missing four games because of an illness, and host Anaheim held on to beat Edmonton.
The Ducks moved closer to their second Pacific Division title in franchise history and first since their 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship season. They lead Pittsburgh by a point for the NHL’s second-best overall record and trail Chicago by three with eight games remaining.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 36 shots for the Oilers.
Flames 3, Avalanche 1 — Mike Cammalleri broke a second-period tie and Joey MacDonald stopped 39 shots, helping Calgary snap a 13-game road winless streak.
Roman Cervenka also scored and Alex Tanguay added a shorthanded goal to wrap up the win for the Flames in a game that featured the bottom two teams in the NHL.
Brad Malone scored his first NHL goal for the last-place Avalanche, who have dropped five straight games.
Canucks 2, Coyotes 0 — Ryan Kesler scored in his return to the lineup after a 20-game absence, Dan Hamuis scored a shorthanded goal with a minute left in the third, and Cory Schneider made 19 saves to lift host Vancouver past Phoenix.
Kesler returned from a foot fracture he sustained in his first game back after shoulder and wrist surgeries last summer.