The New York Rangers, who appeared dead when Wayne Gretzky was sidelined with a neck injury two weeks ago, are anything but.
The greatest victory since The Great One went down came when they rallied from a two-goal deficit then beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime on Petr Nedved's second goal of the game Monday night.
The Rangers are unbeaten in six games (5-0-1) without Wayne Gretzky, and certainly not lacking for heroes, perseverance or courage.
"Tonight's game could have been 4-0 in the first six minutes," said captain Brian Leetch, who assisted on all three New York goals. "It could have been over right from the start."
It wasn't because Mike Richter, who stopped 24 of 26 shots, was outstanding, and Nedved overcame an injury.
Nedved scored on a power play with 17.3 seconds remaining in overtime, vaulting the Rangers into a tie with Boston - which has a game in hand - for the final playoff spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference.
Nedved's third-period goal had evened a game Toronto led 2-0 in the first period. The decisive goal, with Lonny Bohonos serving a boarding penalty that left Toronto coach Pat Quinn arguing after the game with referee Paul Devorksi, was Nedved's 17th.
It came off a slick pass from Leetch. Nedved unleashed a shot from the slot that deflected off Toronto defenseman Dimitri Yushkevich and slowly edged over the goal line.
"I didn't think it was going in," Nedved said. "But I was fortunate. Leetch made a great pass."
Nedved tied the game at 5:55 of the third period. Leetch took a slap shot from the point that bounced off of Nedved in front of the net and trickled under goalie Glenn Healy.
"I didn't really do much," said Nedved, who received seven stitches in the head after being hit with a stick in the first period. "I just drove to the net and I was lucky. It hit me in the butt."
The Maple Leafs scored twice within 44 seconds of the first period.
Toronto took a 1-0 lead at 12:29 when Derek King intercepted a clearing attempt by Leetch at the blue line and passed to Mike Johnson, who was streaking in on Richter. He stopped the first shot, but Johnson converted the rebound for his 19th goal.
Johnson returned the favor at 13:13, feeding King for his 20th goal.
"We had our chances to win the game," Mats Sundin said. "It certainly hurts."
Kevin Stevens made it 2-1 with his 17th goal at 14:41. With the Rangers on the power play, Stevens took a cross-ice pass from Leetch in the slot and rifled it by Healy.
"We came out strong early, but they weathered the storm and they came back at us," Johnson said. "We started sitting back on our heels a little bit and they took it to us. "
"You've got to give them credit. They're fighting for their lives and tonight they looked like they wanted it a little more."
Gretzky was examined Monday night by Dr. Patrick O'Leary, who reported no change to the status of his injury, a protruding disc in his neck. Gretzky will receive a cortisone shot within 48 hours and will be re-examined one week from the time of the injection.
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