The New York Rangers surged into the All-Star break with four wins in their final five games. Now they hope more goals start to follow as they resume play.
The Rangers look to continue their roll Tuesday night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes as the NHL gets back to business following the All-Star game.
New York (28-16-4) put together one of its better defensive stretches of the season just before the break, allowing eight goals in going 4-1 leading up to the week off. Making the run all the more impressive was the fact that the Rangers were limited to 11 goals.
New York's latest win, 4-2 over Anaheim last Tuesday in its final game before the break, marked its highest-scoring effort since Jan. 5 - when it beat Pittsburgh 4-0.
The Rangers are the fourth-lowest scoring team in the Eastern Conference with 127 goals, but have allowed the third-fewest with 125.
"We're just kind of playing to our strengths," captain Chris Drury said. "We know we're not a high-scoring team, but that's OK. We'll win games with defense and goaltending. We'll win 2-1 or 3-2 with an empty net. A win is a win."
The victory over the Ducks left the Rangers one point out of the top spot in the Atlantic Division as they continued to ride the outstanding play of Henrik Lundqvist. The All-Star made 34 saves and has a 1.59 goals-against average during New York's last five games.
"It's a good little run of points here. It's such a tight division, it's such a tight race. Every night is a big game," Drury said after the win over Anaheim. "It's going to be a big test for us when we get back."
Rangers forwards will be facing a test of whether they can generate enough offense for the team to keep winning. Drury didn't record a point in four of his final seven games before the break, while leading scorer Nikolai Zherdev has gone 12 games without a goal.
Markus Naslund, tied for the team lead with 15 goals, snapped an eight-game goal drought last Tuesday and had his first multipoint game since Dec. 12.
While the Rangers look to continue their steady defensive play, the Hurricanes are hoping they've put an up-and-down stretch behind them. Carolina (23-20-5) won its last two games before the break, but that followed a five-game losing streak - which was preceded by four straight victories.
Cam Ward helped the Hurricanes go into the week off on a positive note, giving up one total goal in the consecutive wins. Carolina allowed 23 goals during the five-game skid, with Ward starting each contest and posting a 4.42 GAA.
"We were talking about using these last two games as a momentum-booster going into the All-Star break," Ward said after beating Pittsburgh 2-1 last Tuesday in his 13th consecutive start. "We had a great effort last night followed by another tonight, which was important to get that good feeling for the break."
Ward and Lundqvist started the first meeting between their teams this season, with the Rangers earning a 3-2 shootout victory at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13. Drury had the only goal in the shootout and Lundqvist stopped four Carolina attempts in the tiebreaker for New York, which has won four of its last five home games in the series.