Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Carl Gunnarsson, left, battles for the puck against New York Rangers forward Rick Nash, right, during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Monday, April 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
TORONTO - In a fight for their playoff lives, the New York Rangers need every point they can get. They don't want to remember the points that got away Monday.
"We're a desperate hockey team," said Rick Nash, who scored two goals for the Rangers in a 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. "We're desperate for points and we knew that we were playing a good game. The third period was good—we were all over them. It just came down to a breakdown after that big goal."
The Rangers, who are seventh in the Eastern Conference, came back from two-goals down to tie the Leafs 3-3 when Derek Stepan scored his 14th goal of the season with exactly nine minutes left in the third period.
But just 39 seconds later Phil Kessel scored his second of the night to give the Leafs the win.
"I thought the most important part was when we tied it 3-3. We didn't play with it," said New York head coach John Tortorella. "We can't have a breakdown like that two shifts after we tie the game. I think if we play with the tie and keep going about our business as we were, we have a much better chance to win the hockey game."
Luck wasn't on their side early in the game as the Rangers hit the post on twice in the first period.
Down two goals almost 15 minutes into the second period, Nash finally got his team on the board at 14:55 when he scored his 16th of the season by beating Leafs goalie James Reimer from close range.
New York couldn't maintain that momentum. Kessel restored the two-goal lead on the power play later in the period.
While the Rangers were pleased with much of their performance, they admitted the mistakes they did make were usually exploited by the Leafs for goals.
"There weren't too many of them but when there was one they put it right in the back of our net," said defenceman Dan Girardi. "I think we played a pretty good road game tonight besides some of our defensive lapses that caused goals."
With just two days to dwell on those errors they made on the road against Toronto, the Rangers have a quick chance to remedy them when they host the same Leafs on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
"It was their night tonight," said goalie Henrik Lundquist. "I guess we just have to come back and beat them in two days."