Eddie Johnstone scored on a pass from defenseman Reijo Ruotsalainen with 1:28 left in the second period, leading the New York Rangers to a 6-5 comeback victory over the Vancouver Canucks last night in Madison Square Garden. It was the Canucks' sixth straight defeat.

Ruotsalainen gained control of the puck behind the Vancouver net and passed to Johnstone for a 12-foot slap shot, ending New York's rally from a 4-1 deficit.

Mark Pavelich scored the Rangers' last goal with a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle with 1:15 remaining in the game. The Canucks' Ivan Hlinka beat goalie Ed Mio with 51 seconds left.

The Rangers took a 1-0 lead when Mikko Leinonen put a wrist shot between the legs of rookie goalie Ken Ellacott, making his first NHL start, but the Canucks scored the next four goals. They led, 3-1, after one period as Curt Fraser and rookie Patrick Sundstrom scored on power plays and Lars Molin beat Mio with a 15-foot backhander.

Molin scored again at 4:01 of the second period on a 20-foot shot. Then the Rangers rallied.

Only 48 seconds after Molin's second goal, Nick Fotiu took Leinonen's pass and shot over Ellacott from short range. At 7:01, Anders Hedberg made it 4-3 with a 15-foot wrist shot.

Then Ellacott made a crucial error. He skated to the corner to retrieve a puck, but his clearing attempt was intercepted by defenseman Andre Dore. He passed to Hedberg, who gave the puck to Mike Rogers for a 35-footer that entered the net before Ellacott could get back into position.