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Talbot, Rangers blank Hurricanes for sixth straight win

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have a chance to go into the three-day holiday break with the longest active winning streak in the NHL.

Goalie Cam Talbot made 18 saves and defenseman Ryan McDonagh scored to lift the Rangers to a 1-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. New York also came back to beat Carolina 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday.

The Rangers have won six in a row and can make it seven Tuesday, when they play at home against the similarly red-hot Washington Capitals.

Washington and New York are for third place in the Metropolitan Division with 38 points and 15 regulation/overtime wins. New York has a game in hand that will extend to two Monday, when the Capitals play at home against the Ottawa Senators.

The San Jose Sharks have won five in a row, but have only one game remaining before the holiday break.

"Our effort, the consistency in our work ethic for the last however many weeks has been right up there, so a good team, when you're rolling like that you want to keep it going as much as you can," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "Against teams that are below you, good teams find a way to win those hockey games and we did that this weekend, although it was probably some of the ugliest hockey you've seen in a long time tonight."

Carolina lost despite Anton Khudobin making 30 saves. He is 0-1-1 at Madison Square Garden this season having allowed two goals on 65 shots. Khudobin made 33 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss at the Garden on Oct. 16.

Cam Ward made 32 saves Saturday. The Hurricanes have 10 goals in their past nine games (1-7-1).

"Well we struggle to score, period," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "So a good goaltending performance, basically you'd like to get a point, if not two out of it, and [Khudobin] has done that for us a few times this year. Unfortunately we haven't scored enough for him."

Talbot's shutout was his third of the season, all in his past four starts dating back to Nov. 19.

"You never want to be the guy to come in and break the winning streak," Talbot said. "I didn't really have to do a whole lot tonight. The guys in front of me did an unbelievable job and did most of the work for me."

The Rangers have been talking about establishing consistency for the balance of the season. It appears they've found what they were looking for in these past six games. The key to their consistency has been as much in the way they defend as in the way they attack.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist won the previous five games before Sunday with a 1.56 goals-against average and .939 save percentage. Talbot obviously had the shutout Sunday.

The Rangers are 12-for-13 on the penalty kill with a shorthanded goal, and have allowed an average of 25 shots on goal per game during the winning streak.

In addition, they have scored 19 goals, including two on the power play during the winning streak. Forward J.T. Miller's power-play goal at 4:01 of the third period Saturday erased Carolina's 1-0 lead.

"When we're at our best our gaps are tight and are forwards are pouring back," Staal said. "When our forwards pour back to the middle of the ice you can't get anything against us, and we can turn it around and go the other way. That's been consistent for us."

McDonagh gave the Rangers the only goal they needed Sunday at 4:10 of the first period. He scored on a one-timer from below the left hash marks off a behind-the-net pass from center Derek Stepan, who has 15 assists this season and points in three straight games.

Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello led the breakout and dumped the puck in off the end boards. Stepan won the race to it against Carolina center Victor Rask, and got free behind the net after Rask tried to lift Stepan's stick instead of take the body. Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk didn't step up to defend Stepan after he got away from Rask and Carolina forward Elias Lindholm was late recovering on McDonagh.

Peters said Rask made a mental mistake by defending Stepan on the wrong side.

"You've gotta cut the back off in this league. You can't allow it to go east-west," Peters said. "It goes east-west behind the net and then we let it come through us, between the defender and the net. It's our mental mistake, a young guy going on the wrong side."

The Rangers outshot Carolina 31-18 and had 56-29 advantage in total shot attempts as they forced the Hurricanes to play on their heels and in their defensive zone for most of the game.

Khudobin made 10 saves in the first period, 13 in the second and seven in the third. He made several saves off of Grade A scoring chances for the Rangers.

"We wanted to have a good start, jump on them, and hopefully have the same kind of defensive game like [Saturday night]," McDonagh said. "I didn't think it would be 1-0 but that's why you play the whole game."

Khudobin's best save might have come at 13:13 of the third period, when he reached out his blocker to knock away forward Derick Brassard's shot from the front of the left post.

He made several pad saves on point-blank opportunities to keep the score at 1-0 in the first period at a time when the Rangers were all over the Hurricanes and forcing them to play sloppy through the neutral zone.

"What can I do right now?" Khudobin said. "If you look at the game, it looks like I played good and whatever, but you still didn't get results. There are a lot of things in my head now but there's not much I can do. Tomorrow is practice. Go work on your things and focus on the next game."


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