Coming off a strong victory over the struggling Eastern Conference leaders, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers look to gain a share of that top spot Monday night when they host the stumbling Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes.
The Rangers (15-9-2), who lead the Atlantic Division by two points over Philadelphia, got 32 saves from Lundqvist on Saturday in a 5-2 road win at Ottawa, which lost its sixth consecutive game. The victory moved New York two points behind Ottawa for the East lead and gave Lundqvist a league-high 14 wins.
“We came in here definitely catching a team down,” said Rangers left wing Brendan Shanahan, who scored twice to help build a four-goal, second-period lead. “And when a team is down you want to jump on them and you don’t want to give them a chance to build confidence and build good things.”
That could be the same mentality New York uses against Carolina (14-10-3), which lost for the third time in four games after absorbing an 8-1 rout at Buffalo on Saturday to open a five-game road trip.
Lundqvist, who is second in the NHL with a 1.83 goals-against average, won all three of his starts against the Hurricanes last season, posting a 0.65 GAA and a shutout to help the Rangers go 3-1-0 in the season series.
New York is 6-1-0 with a tie in its last eight meetings with Carolina at Madison Square Garden, including wins in both matchups there last season.
Lundqvist has been outstanding in 13 home starts, going 9-4-0 with a 1.54 GAA and three shutouts. Ten of his 11 career shutouts have come at Madison Square Garden, where he has a lifetime 2.00 GAA in 80 games.
Grahame is likely to return to the bench Monday after allowing all eight goals on just 25 shots against the Sabres.
Ward, though, hasn’t been much better, going 2-2-0 with a 3.54 GAA in his last four starts—all at home. He is performing significantly better on the road, going 5-1-1 with a 2.54 GAA. The 23-year-old Ward lost his only start at New York opposite Lundqvist, making 27 saves in a 4-1 defeat on Feb. 15.
He will likely face a Rangers’ team that has scored nine goals in the last two games after being held to seven in losing three of its previous four games. The Rangers’ 62 goals are among the lowest in the NHL.
The Hurricanes, who have produced a conference-high 86 goals, are hoping to get back on track. They have been outscored 38-18 over the last nine games, winning just three.
Eric Staal, the team’s leader with 14 goals, is hoping to avoid extending his goal drought to a season-high five games. The center has managed to score only twice in the last 10 contests. He has three goals in 12 career games against the Rangers, but none in the last six.
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