Sharks-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Henrik Lundqvist didn't have an answer for the San Jose Sharks' offense back in October as the New York Rangers watched puck after puck hit the back of their net.

It doesn't appear things will be any easier for him four months later.

Lundqvist looks to become the winningest goaltender in franchise history as the Rangers face the surging Sharks on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

San Jose scored early and often in its 9-2 win over New York on Oct. 8, as rookie Tomas Hertl - who had knee surgery in December and hasn't played since - dazzled with four goals to lead the rout.

Lundqvist allowed four goals before being pulled after 30 minutes, and backup Martin Biron, who retired 12 days later, gave up the rest. It marked the most goals the Rangers had allowed in more than three years.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said his club wasn't trying to embarrass New York by any means.

"I don't know what the retribution would be," McLellan said. "We had a real good night. Anything we did went our way and basically anything they did didn't go their way. There was no intent to run up the score. It will be a hard game (Sunday)."

Lundqvist will be in net again, this time looking for his 302nd career victory that would pass Mike Richter for the franchise lead. He tied the mark after making 30 saves for the Rangers (36-28-4) in Friday's 4-2 win over Winnipeg.

"It's a huge honor to be up there with (Richter) because he has meant so much to this organization, and it's kind of surreal to see yourself up there with him," said Lundqvist, 3-1-0 with a 1.77 goals-against average over his last four starts. "It means that I've been here awhile and been lucky enough to play with a lot of great players who helped me get here."

Earning the record likely will be a tough task against the Sharks (44-17-7), who have scored 22 goals while winning five in a row. They improved to 8-1-1 in a stretch of 12 straight against Eastern Conference foes with a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders on Friday.

Jason Demers, Martin Havlat, Matthew Nieto and captain Joe Thornton scored for San Jose, which is in the thick of a tight race for the top playoff seed in the West.

The Sharks have won three straight on the road.

"We're a confident group right now," Thornton said. "We're relying on each other. We're working extremely hard for each other. We feel if we play our game we can beat anybody, and that's a good feeling to have."

San Jose scored in the opening 20 minutes for the fourth straight game, and it leads the NHL with 69 first-period goals. It is getting production up and down the lineup, much to the delight of McLellan.

"Getting the lead was important and we had contributions from all four lines," McLellan said. "Every game is big this time of year. Now we're just looking forward to our next game, which will be in a building that's always tough."

The Rangers are just 2-2-1 in their last five at Madison Square Garden, though, as they battle to hold second place in the Metropolitan Division. Carl Hagelin recorded his first NHL hat trick Friday as New York ended a two-game skid.

"You can't come (from) a road trip and go empty handed," said forward Martin St. Louis, who assisted on Hagelin's second goal. "Those are two big points."

Antti Niemi, who has won his last four starts with a 2.00 GAA, could be in net for the Sharks as they make their first visit to MSG since Oct. 31, 2011.

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