The offseason acquisition will try to help the Rangers match their longest winning streak in almost 35 years Monday night when they face the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers (7-1-0) opened the season with a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Oct. 2. They’ve followed that by winning seven in a row, including Saturday’s 4-1 victory at Toronto.
It’s their longest win streak since a seven-game run in the 2005-06 season. New York hasn’t put together eight consecutive victories - two shy of the franchise record - since Dec. 27, 1974-Jan. 11, 1975.
“A lot of it is confidence,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist(notes), who had 34 saves against the Maple Leafs. “Even though we know we’re not having the best night, we have the confidence right now that we can win.”
The arrival of Gaborik, who had two assists Saturday, has boosted a Rangers offense which scored 2.47 goals per game over the previous two seasons, ranking only better than the New York Islanders’ NHL-low 2.36.
This season, the Rangers lead the league with 32 goals, and Gaborik has at least one point in every game after leaving Minnesota over the summer to sign a five-year, $37.5 million contract on the first day of free agency.
The All-Star right wing is tied for third in the league in both goals (six) and points (12) while ranking second with 36 shots.
New York’s increased scoring should be a welcome relief to Lundqvist, who is 6-1-0 with a 2.15 goals-against average. He was 38-25-7 with a 2.43 GAA in 70 games last season, allowing three goals or fewer in 19 of his losses.
The Rangers also are in position to win their first five games at MSG for the first time since setting a franchise record with an eight-game run to open the 1990-91 season. They last posted a five-game home winning streak from Oct. 29-Nov. 8, 2007.
They’re 8-2-0 with a tie at home against the Sharks (4-3-1). New York lost 3-2 at San Jose (4-3-1) on Dec. 20 in the lone meeting between the clubs last season.
Thornton was one of four Sharks to score against the Islanders and he had two assists, giving him the league lead with 11. He ranks second in the NHL with 13 points.
“We have some skilled guys, and when we execute we’re pretty hard to handle,” said Thornton, who has nine goals and 20 assists in 27 games against the Rangers.
The left wing, acquired last month from Ottawa for two players and a draft pick, has not scored in his last five games against the Rangers.