After a much-needed breather, the New York Rangers are ready to resume their playoff push.
The Rangers look to bounce back from their first loss in six games on Saturday when they visit the NHL-worst Philadelphia Flyers.
New York (39-29-9) lost 6-4 to Montreal on Tuesday to end a five-game winning streak that matched its season high. Despite the defeat, the Rangers are still 10-2-3 over their last 15 games and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Montreal and two in front of ninth-place Toronto.
“Certainly the work we’ve done in the last month has pushed us to a position where we’re still in the driver’s seat,” said Brendan Shanahan, who had two assists Tuesday. “We just have to go out in our next game and correct a lot of the things that we did wrong tonight and get a win.”
Coach Tom Renney, whose team gave up five unanswered goals in the second period, said the Rangers were simply worn out.
“There’s physical fatigue, there’s mental fatigue, and there’s a combination of both,” he said. “We’ve had our foot on the gas for a long time here now.”
Renney pulled goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the NHL’s reigning first star of the week, in the second period after he allowed four goals on 15 shots. Lundqvist had not given up four goals in any of his previous 22 starts.
Stephen Valiquette came on to make his third appearance of the season and first since March 3, stopping eight of 10 shots.
“Henrik’s been just a stalwart for us and he wanted to get the heck out of there and take his pads off and rest a bit,” Renney said. “It’s a tough decision whenever you do that to a goaltender but he’s so valuable to us and his teammates know that and they’re not happy with what they did in front of him. We’re playing under these circumstances due in large part to him so he knows that and the rest of us do as well.”
Michael Nylander scored his 24th goal of the season, one shy of the career-high he set in 2000-01 with Chicago.
The Rangers are 5-2-0 against Philadelphia (21-45-11) this season, including a 5-0 victory on March 21 as Lundqvist stopped 17 shots for his fifth shutout.
Just 21 seconds into that game, New York’s Colton Orr fought and knocked out Todd Fedoruk in response to Philadelphia’s rough play in the previous meeting on Feb. 17. Orr also fought Ben Eager, who combined with Fedoruk for four roughing penalties and a misconduct in the first period of the Flyers’ 5-3 win in the prior matchup.
The Flyers have dropped five of six, including Friday’s 3-1 loss in New Jersey. Simon Gagne scored the lone goal for Philadelphia, which owns a league-worst 53 points.