February was certainly a kind month to the Rangers, especially goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
The top team in the Eastern Conference hopes to carry the momentum into March as New York visits the Carolina Hurricanes this evening at RBC Center.
The Rangers posted a 9-3-1 record in February, beginning and ending the month with shutouts by Lundqvist. The All-Star goaltender went 8-2-0 with a 1.29 goals-against average in 10 starts during February and did not allow more than two goals in any of the outings while posting three of his league-leading eight shutouts.
Lundqvist wasn't tested much in his latest outing, stopping 13 shots in Monday's 2-0 win over the visiting Devils. The victory, which saw New York allow a season-low in shots, gives the Swedish netminder at least 30 wins in all seven of his NHL seasons and 43 career shutouts.
Carl Hagelin beat New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur in the first period and assisted on Ryan Callahan's empty-net tally for the Rangers, who have won two straight and improved to 11-3-2 in their past 16. That has them atop the East standings with 86 points, two behind the Canucks for the most in the NHL.
"That was the type of game you expect to see when you have two great teams with two great goalies," said Hagelin. "It's always tight when we play them and you saw that today with the small amount of shots."
Callahan, who has eight goals in his last 10 games to up his career-high total to 25 on the season, did not skate on Wednesday because of a bruised foot and is day-to-day.
The Hurricanes closed out February by notching six of a possible eight points in their final four games, kicking off a six-game homestand with a 2-0-2 mark. They rebounded on Tuesday from consecutive shootout losses to Anaheim and Florida by besting Nashville 4-3.
Defenseman Bryan Allen had the game-winner, jumping out of the penalty box and scoring on a breakaway 1:28 into the third following a slashing call for his first goal in 94 games.
Eric Staal paced the offense with a goal and two assists, giving him seven goals and nine helpers over a nine-game point streak, and Jamie McBain also scored. Cam Ward returned from missing three games with a lower-body injury and posted 26 saves for Carolina, which sits eight points out of a playoff spot.
"Beside the fact that they scored the first goal, I thought our start was pretty good," Staal said. "We were on the attack. We stayed with our game plan and we were rewarded with some power plays."
The Rangers have won four of their past five meetings with the Hurricanes, scoring five goals in each of the first two encounters of 2011-12. New York has also won four of its past five as the guest against Carolina.