The New York Rangers put an ugly defeat behind them on Saturday, and now they’re hoping to solidify their position in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Rangers will be trying to earn a point in their seventh straight game on Sunday night when they host the Florida Panthers.
New York (31-24-8) beat Buffalo 4-3 on Saturday, four days after blowing a five-goal lead in a 6-5 shootout loss in Montreal. Perhaps more importantly, the Rangers moved two points ahead of the Sabres into a tie with Boston for sixth place in the East.
“In our minds, that game was over,” forward Brendan Shanahan said, referring to the loss at Montreal. “But in order for us to convince maybe the rest of the hockey world, we had to win tonight’s game. If we didn’t win, somehow they’d attribute it to our last game.”
Despite the embarrassing loss to the Canadiens, the Rangers have been on a roll, going 4-0-2 over their last six games. New York owns one of the league’s worst offenses, averaging 2.49 goals per game, but has scored at least three goals in each of its last four games.
“We put the Montreal game behind us,” goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 26 saves, told the Rangers’ official team Web site. “We got the win, and it feels good.
“This is going to go down to the last game, and the only thing we can do is focus on our job and try to win as many games as possible. Every game we play right now matters a lot.”
Sean Avery scored the go-ahead goal, and linemates Brandon Dubinsky and Jaromir Jagr also had goals for the Rangers. Avery and Dubinsky each had a goal against the Canadiens, while Jagr had four assists.
“They are a good line, and when they use what they have for strengths individually and collectively, they are a good line,” coach Tom Renney said.
The Rangers play three of their next four at Madison Square Garden, where they have won six of their last nine. New York beat the Panthers 5-2 at home on Oct. 4, but lost 3-2 in a shootout in Florida in the last meeting between the teams.
Lundqvist is 5-1-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average in six career games against Florida (28-29-7).
The Panthers ended a three-game losing streak on Saturday, winning 2-1 in overtime in Philadelphia. Jay Bouwmeester tied the game with 3.7 seconds left in regulation and captain Olli Jokinen scored 3:44 into overtime.
Florida, which ended a three-game road losing streak, is trying to keep pace in a tight Southeast Division, trailing first-place Carolina by six points.
“The way things have been going around here the last few games, it hasn’t been a whole lot of fun,” Bouwmeester said. “It was kind of uplifting.”
The game-winning goal was especially encouraging for Jokinen, who admitted this week how much trouble he had moving on from accidentally slicing Richard Zednik’s throat with his skate.
“I saw an opening,” Jokinen said. “There was a free lane to shoot and I was able to hit the net and it went in.”