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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards scored early, defenceman Michael Del Zotto had two goals in the third period and the New York Rangers won their fourth in a row and moved closer to securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Friday night.

The Rangers moved one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.

Henrik Lundqvist was steady throughout in winning for the third straight game and for the sixth time in seven. He won at Minnesota and at Winnipeg to get to 250 NHL victories, and helped the Rangers widen their lead. His best stop of the night came 2 minutes into the third period when he denied David Desharnais on a breakaway to keep the score at 2-0. Rene Bourque spoiled Lundqvist's chances of a shutout when he scored with 2:29 left to make it 4-1. Lundqvist made 19 saves.

Gaborik scored in the first period and Richards had a power-play goal in the second for the Rangers (50-21-7), who are 6-1 since a 2-5 skid earlier this month. Del Zotto also had a man-advantage goal.

Carey Price was sturdy and made 25 saves for the Canadiens, who played their first game since general manager Pierre Gauthier was fired, and team adviser Bob Gainey left on Thursday.


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) ??? Sore nose and all, Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists to help Pittsburgh beat Buffalo, snapping the Penguins' mini-slump and slowing the Sabres' late-season surge.

It was Crosby's third four-point game in a season in which concussion troubles have limited him to 18 games. And it came after he was held without a point in his past two outings and a day after his nose was bloodied by a puck in a loss at the New York Islanders.

Steve Sullivan had a goal and two assists, Evgeni Malkin had a goal and assist, and Pascal Dupuis set up two to extend his points streak to an NHL season-best 13 games. Pittsburgh rebounded from two straight losses to the Islanders and moved four points ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings.

Thomas Vanek, Tyler Ennis and Jordan Leopold scored for the Sabres, who dropped to 14-3-4 in their past 21, and lost for the first time in regulation in 10 games (7-1-2).

The Sabres had a five-game winning streak snapped, and dropped into ninth place, behind the Washington Capitals. Both teams have four games left and 86 points, but the Capitals hold the tiebreaker edge.

The Sabres' loss also allowed the idle Boston Bruins to clinch a playoff berth.


DETROIT (AP) ??? Gabriel Bourque and Francis Bouillon scored in the second period, Pekka Rinne made 31 saves and Nashville beat Detroit for coach Barry Trotz's 500th victory with the franchise.

Nashville moved a point ahead of Detroit with four games left in the regular season to be the fourth-seeded team with home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Alexander Radulov and Shea Weber also scored for Nashville.

Jiri Hudler spoiled Rinne's shutout bid with 3:03 left.


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) ??? Andrew Ladd scored 16 seconds into overtime and Winnipeg beat Carolina to eliminate the Hurricanes from playoff contention.

Kyle Wellwood scored the tying goal with 4:47 left in regulation and added an assist, while Jim Slater scored and Nik Antropov added a goal in his return to the lineup for the Jets. They trailed 3-1 midway through the second period before rallying to keep their slim post-season hopes alive.

Eric Staal scored his 250th career goal and Derek Joslin and Brandon Sutter added goals for the Hurricanes.


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) ????????? Defenceman Nikita Nikitin scored twice and had an assist, R.J. Umberger also had two goals, and Allen York made 30 saves in Columbus' victory over Florida.

Nikitin followed a two-assist game in a victory over Detroit on Wednesday night with goals in the second and third periods. Umberger scored in the first and added an empty-netter with 47 seconds to play.

Tomas Kopecky spoiled York's shutout bid, scoring off a rebound with 7:57 left in the third.

The Panthers, coming off an overtime loss Thursday night at Minnesota, remained four points ahead of Washington in the race for the Southeast Division title.

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