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Antti Raanta much happier with his play after beating Leafs

Dylan McIlrath of the New York Rangers celebrates

Dylan McIlrath of the New York Rangers celebrates his second-period goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

TORONTO — Backup goalie Antti Raanta, whose despair was palpable after a loss to the Kings last Friday, looked like the polar opposite of himself Thursday night.

“I was just trying to beat the pass tonight, to be square with the puck, and it really worked,’’ the relieved Ranger said after making 35 saves in a 4-2 win over Toronto that restored his confidence. “I was inside the game, didn’t need to start stretching or making split saves.”

Raanta said he knew he had rediscovered his game when he reached to glove Jake Gardiner’s power-play shot at 10:40 of the first period. “That’s when you knew you had the good feeling that it was going to work for you,” he said. “That was the save that changed the game for me.”

When the Maple Leafs tied the score at 2 with 2:30 left, Raanta admitted sensing a flashback. The Kings had scored with 29.7 seconds left to tie the last game he started, a 5-4 overtime loss. “It was a little miserable, but there was still a lot of game left,’’ he said. “The empty-netter, it was an awesome feeling.”

Staal in, McIlrath out

Marc Staal was in the lineup after the birth of his second child in New York on Wednesday. Dylan McIlrath was a healthy scratch for the 29th time this season.

Alain Vigneault endorsed McIlrath despite his struggles against Chicago on Wednesday. “He’s got the size, the skill set, and he’s done a good job for us,” he said.

Blue notes

The Rangers’ penalty kill went 5-for-5 after entering the game with seven goals allowed in the last 20 chances against . . . The reunited line of Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and J.T. Miller was outstanding. Zuccarello had a goal and two assists. Miller had three assists, including one on the goal-ahead goal after forcing a turnover in the Maple Leafs’ zone. Brassard scored his team-leading 21st and 22nd goals . . . The Rangers are 12-13-3 on the road . . . Keith Yandle extended his point streak to five games with his 29th assist . . . In a chippy finish, Dom Moore and Tanner Glass got last licks, being whistled for roughing and slashing at the 20:00 mark with Rich Clune . . . The Rangers host Detroit on Sunday.

New York Sports