New York (17-10-4) opened a three-game road trip with a 3-1 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday, its fourth straight victory following a season-high four-game skid. Three of those losses were after regulation, though, and the Rangers have earned at least one point in 10 of their last 11 contests to move into first place in the Atlantic Division.
Matt Cullen and Jarkko Immonen each had a goal and an assist against the Flyers, and the Rangers held Philadelphia to 16 shots on goal - the fewest allowed by New York this season.
The Rangers have given up five goals during the win streak after allowing a season high-tying seven in a loss to the division rival New York Islanders on Dec. 3.
"That's where we have improved the most," said Cullen, who scored his first goal in 18 games. "We've really buckled down defensively and eliminated other team's chances for the most part.
"We've spent a lot of time working on the defensive side of the game. I guess one of the main things is back pressure from our forwards which is allowing our defensemen to keep a tight gap and not give the offensive players much space. We've really improved in that area, probably more so than any other area."
Kevin Weekes made his second consecutive start in goal for the first time since early November and was barely tested by Philadelphia, but Rangers coach Tom Renney wasn't overly pleased with his team's defensive effort.
"We were OK," he said. "But we were just sloppy enough where it was scary enough. We gave them opportunities to still direct pucks to the net and gave them an opportunity or two on the power play that still could have meant the difference in the game the other way."
The Rangers will be trying to win five in a row for the first time since a seven-game run from Feb. 1-March 2, but they're winless in their last six visits to Dallas. New York hasn't won there since Dec. 30, 1996.
The Stars (20-11-0) have won 11 of 15 home games this season, but have dropped two straight at American Airlines Center, including a 3-1 loss to Columbus on Tuesday.
Dallas forwards Brenden Morrow, Eric Lindros and Antti Miettinen returned from injuries, but the Stars were missing top scorer Mike Modano (hip flexor/groin injury), and goalie Marty Turco had an off night.
A pair of misplays by Turco led to goals for the Blue Jackets, including the go-ahead score at 8:14 of the third period only 40 seconds after the Stars had tied the game.
"Those things can't be in my game," Turco said. "Usually I make things look easy. Tonight I made it look difficult. ... The guys need for me to field (the puck). It was a depressing goal after fighting so hard to get (the tying) goal."
Modano was placed on injured reserve Thursday, and center Joel Lundqvist was recalled from Iowa of the AHL to take his roster spot. Assuming Lundqvist plays, he could be facing twin brother Henrik, the No. 1 goalie for the Rangers. It would be only the third time in NHL history that twins have opposed each other in a game.
These teams haven't met since the Rangers beat Turco and the Stars 3-0 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4, 2003.
|Dec 14 '06||NYR 5 at DAL 2|