Rangers return home to battle Coyotes

( - The New York Rangers helped their playoff odds by posting a perfect record on a recent three-game road trip. The Blueshirts hope to stay hot on Monday when they welcome the Phoenix Coyotes for a clash at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers posted wins in Ottawa, Columbus and New Jersey last week, improving their impressive road mark this season to 23-13-0. New York will try to carry that success home when it kicks off a two-game homestand on Monday, but the Blueshirts have struggled at MSG this season, going 16-16-4 as the home team.

Of the three recent road victories, the one over the Blue Jackets was the most essential to New York's playoff cause. Columbus and the Rangers were tied for third place in the Metropolitan Division heading into the game, but New York grabbed the lead with a 3-1 triumph.

Columbus now has fallen four points behind the Blueshirts for the last of the Metro's three automatic bids to the postseason, while Washington is three points back of third place in the Metro. The Blue Jackets and Capitals are both idle on Monday.

The Rangers also are one point behind Philadelphia for second place in the Metro. The Flyers have two games in hand over New York and host Los Angeles on Monday. Philly will visit MSG for a divisional showdown on Wednesday.

After downing the Blue Jackets on Friday, the Rangers earned a third straight win Saturday against the rival Devils. Henrik Lundqvist recorded his 50th career shutout, a new franchise record, to help the Blueshirts picks up the 2-0 win at Prudential Center.

Posting a 21-save effort for his fifth shutout of the season, Lundqvist passed Ed Giacomin for the most shutouts in franchise history and helped the Rangers win for a fourth time in the past five games.

Rick Nash scored halfway through the second period, and Derek Stepan added an empty-netter in the final moments to seal the victory.

"We had a real emotional game last night and another one here tonight," said Nash. "The best part about tonight was hearing the fans cheering for us. This was a fun game."

Another victory on Monday would match New York's longest winning streak this season, equaling a four-game run from Jan. 26-Feb. 4.

Phoenix, meanwhile, hopes to return to the win column tonight after being denied a fourth straight win in Saturday's home test against red-hot Boston.

The Coyotes also are fighting for a postseason berth and enter Monday's action with a two-point lead over Dallas for the second wild card spot in the West. The Stars, who hold a game in hand over Phoenix, are set to host Winnipeg on Monday.

Even though the Bruins clinched a playoff spot on Friday, the club didn't let up Saturday against the Coyotes. Boston trailed 2-1 heading into the third period, but scored three unanswered goals over the game's final 20 minutes to record its 12th straight victory.

Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in a losing effort for the Coyotes, while Mike Smith stopped 24-of-27 shots.

"We let them hang around too much," said Doan. "We didn't play as well in the third as we did in the first. Give them credit, they found ways to win a game."

The Coyotes begin a three-game road trip on Monday and also will visit Pittsburgh and New Jersey during the swing. Phoenix is 13-14-8 as the guest this season, but has won three of its last four road games.

Phoenix and the Rangers last played when they opened this season against each other at Arena on Oct. 3. Smith turned aside 23 shots to pick up the win, while Radim Vrbata recorded a hat trick to lead the offense. Lundqvist was saddled with the loss after stopping just 28-of-32 shots.

The Coyotes halted a three-game slide in the series with that home victory in October, but Phoenix has dropped four straight and 13 of its past 15 games in the Big Apple.

Defenseman John Moore expects to miss a second straight game for the Rangers after suffering a concussion in Friday's win over Columbus. New York forward Derek Dorsett is questionable for Monday after sitting out Saturday with a stomach virus.