Henrik Lundqvist is looking every bit like the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, and that may eventually be enough to get the New York Rangers back to the playoffs.
For now, they'll settle with him continuing his dominance of the Philadelphia Flyers.
With the Rangers trying to create a cushion for the final playoff position, Lundqvist is expected to remain in net in an effort to beat the Flyers for the 12th time in 13 attempts Tuesday night in Philadelphia.
Lundqvist won last season's Vezina by going 39-18-5 with a 1.97 goals-against average and eight shutouts. He's among the NHL leaders this season with 19 wins and a 2.06 GAA, and his play in April could be the start of him making a case at another Vezina.
He's started all seven games this month, going 5-1-1 with a 1.53 GAA and one shutout, helping the Rangers (21-16-4) move into the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. They're one point behind the seventh-place New York Islanders and two back of Ottawa for sixth. However, they're just two points ahead of ninth-place Winnipeg with seven games to go - one more than the Jets.
Lundqvist came up big again Saturday, making 29 saves while Dan Girardi scored with 1:49 left in overtime to clinch a 1-0 road win over the Islanders.
"He was not the goalie that we know as the season started, but he has certainly been at the top of his game," coach John Tortorella said of Lundqvist, who lost five of his first eight starts behind a 2.83 GAA. "There's no coincidence that we're 5-1-1 and he's been really good."
He's certainly been good against the Flyers (18-21-3), winning 11 of his last 12 meetings with the Atlantic Division rival behind a 1.66 GAA and two shutouts. That includes winning each of the past three matchups this season while stopping 81 of 86 shots.
Lundqvist had 32 saves while Derek Stepan had four points and Rick Nash three in a 5-2 win at Wells Fargo Center on March 26.
Stepan thrives against the Flyers, collecting 17 points in 16 games for his highest total against any opponent. The center has notched nine of those points in seven visits to Philadelphia, and he enters this one with nine in seven games this month.
Nash has four goals and one assist in the past two games versus the Flyers.
New York has won five of the last six games at Philadelphia.
The Flyers, who are seven points back of the Rangers in the playoff race, are hoping Monday's 7-3 win at Montreal can provide a spark heading into the final six games. That matched their highest scoring output of the season and snapped a four-game slide, during which they were outscored 12-3.
"It has been a tough year for goals, especially the last few games," said left wing Scott Hartnell, who had a hat trick against the Canadiens to give him seven goals on the season. "You never know."
Claude Giroux, who had three points Monday, has five goals and 11 assists in the past 13 games, but Philadelphia only has a 5-6-2 record to show for it.
The captain has 26 points in 27 career meetings with the Rangers, getting 16 in 13 home games.
Jakub Voracek is tied with Giroux for the team lead with 42 points after also getting three against the Canadiens. The right wing has scored four goals while setting up four others in the past five games against New York, but is a minus-3 in that stretch.