Rangers eye second straight win vs. Panthers

(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers appear to have dodged a major injury scare.

With good luck seemingly on their side, the Rangers try to make it two victories in a row on Monday night as they host the Florida Panthers.

The Rangers had scored just one goal over back-to-back losses coming out of the All-Star break and things looked as though they would go from bad to worse when star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist took a puck to his throat on Saturday versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lundqvist's neck became exposed on the play as captain Ryan McDonagh's stick came up and lifted his netminder's mask as he battled in front of the net. Lundqvist said he never saw the shot from Brad Malone before it struck him in the throat 3:02 into the second period.

Lundqvist fell to the ice and kicked out his legs as he tried to catch his breath, but miraculously stayed in the game and made 31 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Hurricanes.

"When I got hit, obviously it was pretty painful and it was hard to breathe for a couple of minutes, and I was light-headed and a little worried at first. (The trainers) told me to just breathe and then slowly it got better," Lundqvist told the Rangers' website.

Rick Nash scored his 29th goal of the season, second most in the NHL, and Chris Kreider, Dan Boyle and Dominic Moore all lit the lamp as well.

But the star of the game was Lundqvist according to head coach Alain Vigneault.

"The first half of the game we might have been up 2-0, and then 2-1 after they scored, but it was mostly because of Hank's play," said Vigneault. "We may have been leading 2-0 after the first period, but (the Hurricanes) were the better team."

Regardless, the Rangers are tied with the Capitals for third place in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind second-place Pittsburgh.

Lundqvist appears as though he will be available to play tonight, but the Rangers could be cautious and give backup Cam Talbot his first career start versus the Panthers.

If not, Lundqvist will look to improve on his 19-9-1 record versus Florida in which he has posted a 1.76 goals against average, .938 save percentage and five shutouts in 29 games.

The Panthers, meanwhile, try to avoid falling further back in the playoff race as a current 1-5-1 rut has the club eight points off a wild card spot.

Florida is coming off a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and it appeared as though the Panthers would get shut out until Brandon Pirri scored with 1:29 to go.

Roberto Luongo stopped 11 shots, giving up two first-period goals while getting almost no offensive support.

"We got to do a better job of being ready right off the hop," said Florida forward Shawn Thornton.

The Panthers will visit the New York Islanders on Tuesday, so it is unknown if Luongo or backup Al Montoya will start tonight.

Luongo is 7-12-1 with a 2.83 GAA, .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 career games versus the Rangers, including 21 starts, while Montoya is 1-3-0 in this matchup with a 4.24 GAA and .875 save percentage.

Montoya, the sixth overall pick of the 2004 draft by the Rangers, made 29 saves in a 5-2 loss at home to the Blueshirts on Dec. 31. Lundqvist stopped 18 shots in the win.

The Rangers have won four in a row and eight of their past 10 overall versus the Panthers while also claiming five of the past six meetings at home.