The New York Rangers ended their longest losing streak in months over the weekend and the Eastern Conference leaders will try to win a second straight tilt when they host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers lost three straight games last week, matching a season-opening 0-1-2 stretch for the club's longest skid of the season. The Blueshirts were able to end the slide with Sunday's overtime win over the visiting Islanders.
The two points New York gained in the win over the Islanders helped the Rangers extend their lead atop the Atlantic Division to four points over Pittsburgh. The Penguins, who have won nine in a row, are off tonight and won't play again until they visit the Rangers on Thursday.
Tonight, the Rangers play the second test of a seven-game homestand against a Carolina team that has lost four straight and five of the last six meetings in this series. New York has also taken two in a row and five of eight on home ice against the Hurricanes.
The Rangers trailed the Isles by a 3-2 count heading into the third period on Sunday, but Brian Boyle evened the score with just 3:29 remaining in regulation. Marian Gaborik then scored the game-winning goal with just six seconds left in overtime, lifting the Rangers to the 4-3 decision over their geographic rivals at Madison Square Garden.
Skating with a 4-on-3 power play following a tripping penalty to Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic in the extra session, Brad Richards sent a pass into the high slot for Gaborik, who waited for his shot and fired a quick wrister just under the crossbar.
Gaborik added an assist, Richards scored twice and Henrik Lundqvist needed to make just 16 saves for the win.
"I thought we had a lot of pressure for a long night and used all of the minutes to finally get it done," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said.
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan missed Sunday's game with a bruised right foot and the forward is questionable for tonight. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto is expected to sit out a third straight game with a bruised right hip.
All three of New York's losses during its recent skid came on the road and the Rangers have won five straight at the Garden, where they boast a 23-7-2 record this season.
Despite being well outside the playoff picture in the East, the Hurricanes have played teams tough in recent weeks. Carolina is 8-3-6 since the start of February, but still enters tonight nine points out of the conference's final postseason berth.
The Hurricanes were dealt a 2-0 setback by the Florida Panthers on Sunday, marking the first time Carolina had lost by more than one goal since a 5-2 setback against the Islanders on Jan. 31.
Jose Theodore made 34 saves to record his third shutout of the season for the Panthers, while Cam Ward was the hard-luck loser for the 'Canes, giving up just one goal on 32 shots in defeat.
"Our guys played hard," Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller said. "We played last night and I thought we emptied the tank and gave it everything we had tonight."
Carolina is 2-1-1 on a five-game road trip that ends tonight. The Hurricanes are just 9-15-9 as the guest this year compared to a 17-13-6 mark at home.