The New York Rangers are looking to get their goaltending on track heading into the postseason. A final matchup this regular season with the Winnipeg Jets could certainly help.
The Rangers try to increase their lead atop the Eastern Conference standings this evening against a Jets club desperate to keep its playoff chances alive.
New York figures to lean heavily on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist come playoff time and is tied for second in the NHL with eight shutouts while ranking third in goals-against average (1.93), save percentage (.932) and wins (36). However, the Swede had been touched for at least three goals in seven of his previous 10 outings prior to last night's 3-2 win over the Wild.
Lundqvist made 24 saves, Marian Gaborik scored his team-leading 38th goal and Ruslan Fedotenko had the game-winner in the third frame. Brian Boyle also netted a goal for New York, which has won the first two of a three-game road trip and four of five overall.
The victory, coupled with the Penguins' loss to the Islanders, pushed the Rangers' lead atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern standings to three over Pittsburgh with six games to play for both clubs. Pittsburgh does not play tonight.
"We don't really care about them," said Lundqvist of the Penguins. "I'm happy with the way we played."
New York is also just two points behind idle St. Louis in the race for the Presidents' Trophy and could grab a share of first place in the overall NHL standings if it can finish off a sweep of Winnipeg this evening.
The Rangers haven't allowed a goal in this series since the second period of the first encounter back on Oct. 24, with Nik Antropov scoring on Rangers backup Martin Biron with 5:31 left in the second period. New York went on to win that encounter 2-1 before posting back-to-back shutouts of the Jets at home by identical 3-0 margins. Both Lundqvist and Biron notched a shutout and it is unknown which netminder will start tonight.
The Jets will try to avoid a third straight home loss this evening after suffering a 6-4 setback to the visiting Senators on Monday. Kyle Wellwood had a goal and a season-high three points, while Antti Miettinen scored twice in Winnipeg's fourth loss in five games.
"Well, tough game," Jets head coach Claude Noel said. "I don't think you can trade chances with their team and expect you're going to win the game. There were a lot of moments in that game where it was timely goals, timely situations where you could have had turning points, and we never got it done."
The defeat leaves the Jets eight points behind the eighth-place Sabres with six games to play.
Evander Kane had a goal and an assist as Winnipeg scored at least three goals for a seventh straight home game and unloaded a season-high 48 shots. It wasn't enough and Ondrej Pavelec allowed five goals on 34 shots faced.
Winnipeg fell to 23-12-4 at home this season and did not have Antropov for a fourth game in a row due to a lower-body issue. Eric Fehr sat out his fifth straight contest due to an upper-body injury and both are doubtful for tonight.