Rangers' Ruslan Fedotenko (26), Brandon Prust (8) and Brian Boyle...

Rangers' Ruslan Fedotenko (26), Brandon Prust (8) and Brian Boyle (22) celebrate Prust's game-winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes. (March 1, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

RALEIGH, N.C. -- In the middle of postgame player interviews Thursday night, coach John Tortorella made a rare appearance -- to congratulate Marty Biron with a slap in the pants.

"He wants a little air time," said Biron, who deserved some himself for rebounding after a few subpar games with a 21-save effort in a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes last night.

"I wasn't really all over the place like I had been," said Biron, who had allowed at least three goals in his previous three starts.

Tortorella agreed. "It was one of his better games," he said, "bouncing back after a couple games where it's been a fight for him."

The Eastern Conference-leading Rangers (41-15-6) earned their third straight win, this one without captain Ryan Callahan, who watched while on crutches. He wore a walking boot on his right foot, which was badly bruised and swollen after blocking Ilya Kovalchuk's wrister against the Devils on Monday.

X-rays were negative and Callahan said he was feeling better, but he's doubtful for tonight's game against Tampa Bay and could be sidelined when the Bruins, whom the Rangers lead by nine points, visit Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. "It's definitely progressing," he said. "It's just we don't know how long."

In 2010-11, the Rangers finished with 93 points; with 20 games to go this season, they have 88.

Two second-period goals -- by Artem Anisimov, on a wicked wrister over Cam Ward's glove at 8:21, and Marian Gaborik, who poked in his 30th of the season at 14:53 after Derek Stepan's shot floated high off Ward and bounced toward the left post -- erased a 1-0 Carolina lead.

Brandon Prust converted a two-on-one break with Brian Boyle at 1:57 of the third to provide a two-goal lead that Biron (11-3-2) and the penalty-killers protected the rest of the way.

"It wasn't the prettiest way to win," said Boyle, who set up Prust's goal with a backhand pass and was awarded the Broadway hat for his performance. "They kept coming at us and we hung in there. It's definitely huge without Cally. He sparks us."

Leading 3-1, the Rangers survived John Mitchell's double- minor for high-sticking at 14:09 of the third. "It was a huge stand for us," Biron said, "when they were six-on-four [Ward was pulled for an extra skater] for two power plays." Jay Harrison scored with 40 seconds to play to get Carolina within a goal.

The Rangers have won all three games against the Hurricanes this season, but there were some concerns.

Michael Del Zotto, who was shoved into the goal post by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta on Feb. 25 and injured his right hip, aggravated the injury, missed the third period and will be evaluated Friday. Dan Girardi was hurting after Jaroslav Spacek's shot hit him on the right arm late in the third. And Brandon Dubinsky, who was penalized for throwing Jiri Tlusty's stick -- which led to Jeff Skinner's power-play goal early in the second period -- was benched after playing only 5:25.

But the Rangers survived without Callahan, who had 11 points in the previous 10 games. "Cally's a big part of this team," Anisimov said. "We found a way to win without him. It's the way we need to play. We hope he comes back soon."

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