The Ottawa Senators are the Eastern Conference’s marquee team. Appropriately enough, they’re often at their best when near the lights of Broadway.
The Senators look to avoid a third straight loss overall Sunday and go for their fifth straight win at Madison Square Garden when they face the New York Rangers for the final time this season.
Despite their current dry spell, the Senators (22-8-4) are the defending Eastern Conference champions and own the East’s best record in 2007-08. They’ve been especially good at the Garden recently.
Ottawa beat the Rangers 3-1 in New York on Oct. 13, after winning both games there last season. The Senators have won four straight at MSG since losing 5-1 to the Rangers on Feb 8, 2006.
New York (17-14-4) did win the teams’ most recent meeting - 5-2 at Ottawa on Dec. 1 - ending a five-game overall slide against the Senators. The Rangers are just 2-5-2 since, though, having allowed at least four goals in each of the seven losses.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has a 3.47 goals-against average over that span, after entering the stretch with a 1.83 GAA. One game after allowing five goals to Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik, Lundqvist made 33 saves against Colorado on Saturday, but the Rangers still lost 4-3 in overtime.
“It’s just tough, because we know we need the points right now and we were really close to getting two points tonight,” Lundqvist told the Rangers’ official Web site.
Led by Scott Gomez’s eight-game point streak, New York has scored at least three goals in four of the past five games. However, the Rangers are just 1-2-2 during that stretch.
“I think our guys are pretty disappointed,” Rangers coach Tom Renney told the team’s official Web site. “They want to be a better team than this.”
The Senators, meanwhile, have lost two in a row since a six-game winning streak, although they earned a point by taking Chicago to overtime Saturday before losing 4-3.
Captain Daniel Alfredsson’s 10-game point streak ended, but Dany Heatley extended his current run to seven straight games with a goal in the first period. He has eight goals and four assists during his streak.
Still, the Senators were frustrated after squandering a 3-1 lead to the Blackhawks, as goalie Ray Emery yielded four goals on 29 shots in his first action since Dec. 12.
“When you have the lead, you don’t want to settle for a point,” said Ottawa center Jason Spezza, who assisted on Heatley’s goal. “It feels like a loss. It is a loss. You get a point for it but we want to win the hockey game.”
Spezza has at least one point in all three games against the Rangers this season, and has two goals and eight assists during a seven-game point streak versus New York.
Ottawa is 11-3-2 on the road this season, and can match San Jose’s NHL-best 12-3-2 road record with a win.