After stumbling in the final week before the Olympics, the Carolina Hurricanes have picked it up again since the break.
The Hurricanes lost three of their last five games before the Turin Games, but take a five-game winning streak into a matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Carolina has held on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference by winning its first four games since the break, including Monday’s 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Ottawa, three points behind Carolina in the East, has also won five in a row.
The Hurricanes were outshot 38-19, but Martin Gerber spoiled Henrik Lundqvist’s first start for the Rangers since Lundqvist helped lead Sweden to the Olympic gold medal. Gerber made 16 of his 37 saves during the third period to outplay New York’s goalie.
“They had a lot of chances, but not many second chances,” Hurricanes defenseman Bret Hedican said. “Martin just seems to be in the right spots and he makes the big saves with the game on the line. I can’t tell you how much he means to this team.”
Steady goaltending has been critical to Carolina’s last three victories, as the Hurricanes have allowed at least 38 shots in the last three games. Gerber stopped 37 shots in a 5-2 victory Florida on Friday, and backup Cam Ward made 38 saves in a 7-5 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Carolina defeated the Rangers in the Hurricanes’ first game since losing left wing Erik Cole, who suffered a compression fracture of a vertebra against the Penguins and is out for at least the regular season. Cole is second on the team with 30 goals and 60 points.
Cole had recorded four goals and two assists in the last three games. His injury puts even more pressure on team scoring leader Eric Staal, who has three goals and four assists since the break.
The Flyers opened their post-Olympic schedule with three straight losses to New York-area teams before ending a four-game skid with a 5-4 shootout victory over Montreal on Monday night.
Getting four goals in regulation was a promising development for the Flyers, who had been outscored 12-4 in losing to the Devils, Rangers and Islanders in a four-day span from March 1-4.
Philadelphia almost gave away its first post-break victory, though, wasting a 4-2 lead in the third period.
“It would be tough if we lost this one,” center Peter Forsberg said. “It was great we got away with two points.”
The Flyers allowed goals to Montreal’s Mike Ribeiro and Sheldon Souray in the final 4:30 of regulation to force overtime. It took a Forsberg goal in the third round of the shootout to keep the Flyers alive, and they won on Petr Nedved’s score in the next round.
Simon Gagne had two assists in his first game since bruising his right knee in Turin. The Flyers, 6-9-4 since Jan. 12, will play Carolina without Michal Handzus (shoulder), Kim Johnsson (concussion) Chris Therien (head) and former Hurricanes captain Keith Primeau (concussion).