The New York Rangers hope their most lopsided victory of the season can spur a push back into the playoffs. They will try to move closer to a postseason return when they host the surging Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.
The Rangers (35-28-9) took sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference on Saturday with a 7-0 rout of Boston. Sean Avery had a career-high four points, opening the scoring during a season-high six-goal second period and picking up three assists.
"I just want the team to win," said Avery, acquired from Los Angeles on Feb. 5."Let's get into the playoffs. We have 10 games left so let's win eight or nine of them."
With their upcoming schedule, the Rangers have a chance to do that. They close the regular season with only two of the remaining 10 contests against a team currently in the top eight of the East, both against the Penguins including the season finale on April 7.
New York has 79 points and a win Monday would move it ahead of idle defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina and into seventh place.
The Rangers have dropped two games to the Penguins this month, giving up two-goal leads heading into the third period each time. On March 1, New York lead 2-0 before dropping a 4-3 decision in a shootout. Nine days later, the Rangers again led 2-0 with 20 minutes to play, but lost 3-2 in overtime.
Henrik Lundqvist was in goal for both losses. After limiting the Penguins (41-21-10) to three goals in three wins last season at Madison Square Garden, he's given up 11 to them this season en route to a 1-1-1 mark. He had 30 saves Saturday for his sixth career shutout, all at MSG, and equaled the 30 wins he had last season as a rookie.
Pittsburgh's last win over the Rangers started a five-game winning streak that has left it only two points behind Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey coming into this contest.
The Penguins, who have won a season-high six in a row twice this season, are coming off a 4-3 shootout win Sunday over Ottawa. Jarkko Ruutu scored the lone goal in the tiebreaker and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all three attempts by the Senators.
"We would've obviously liked to come out with a win in regulation but it happens and these are tight games, it's just the way it's been going," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "You try to avoid going to overtime or shootouts by winning in regulation but it's pretty hard to avoid at this time of the year."
Crosby, the league leader with 108 points, has five goals and five assists during a six-game point streak. He also has eight goals - six on the power play - and 10 assists in just 13 career games against New York.
While Crosby is enjoying another stellar stretch, Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr is enduring a difficult one.
Jagr is on a season high-tying eight-game goal drought since scoring against the Penguins on March 1. He hasn't gone nine games without one since Nov. 27-Dec. 13, 2001, with Washington.
The future Hall of Famer has 14 goals and 28 points in 25 games against the Penguins since they traded him to the Capitals in 2001.