The Boston Bruins have been playing from behind for most of the season because of a slow start, but a regulation victory this afternoon over the New York Rangers would put the defending champs on top in the Eastern Conference.
A victory for the Blueshirts would legitimize them as serious contenders.
The Bruins put themselves in an early hole by dropping seven of their 10 games in October, but have gone 27-6-1 since and lead the Senators by a point for the top spot in the Northeast Division. Their 61 points also have them one behind the Rangers for the most in the East.
A slow start nearly cost Boston on Thursday in New Jersey as it trailed by a goal heading into the third, but the Bruins scored four times in the final frame to cruise to a 4-1 victory. Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton scored 35 seconds apart in the stanza, which also featured goals from Andrew Ference and Chris Kelly.
Tim Thomas made 30 saves as Boston won for the 13th time in its past 17 games.
"We obviously talked about needing to be better, needing to find a way to go out there and win," said Thomas of the thought prior to the third period. "There's a difference between talking about it and doing it and one of the good things about this team is more often than not we do it."
The Rangers have also posted an excellent record since going 4-3-3 in October, going 25-9-2 to vault to the top of the standings. New York, which owns a four-point edge over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division, is coming off its fourth loss in 16 games, a 4-1 defeat to Pittsburgh.
Carl Hagelin scored the lone goal for the Rangers, but the Penguins pulled away with a three-goal third. Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves.
"I don't think we've played that bad, but it's just all the little details in the end that will be the difference. We have to do everything, if not perfect, then really well in order to win games," said Lundqvist. "Every night is going to be tough to win, especially now that teams come in and expect a tough night."
Boston and New York are meeting for the first time this season, with the Rangers having won six of the past eight encounters overall. The Blueshirts have also won three of their last four in Beantown.