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Rangers try to stay hot against struggling Panthers

(SportsNetwork.com) - The surging New York Rangers take aim at a sixth win in seven games when they host the ice-cold Florida Panthers in Sunday's matchup at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers started this season slowly, going 3-7-0 out of the gate before getting to .500 by winning five of their last six games.

New York will try for a third consecutive victory on Sunday after posting an impressive 5-1 home win against Pittsburgh on Wednesday and following it up with a 4-2 victory the next night in Columbus.

Carl Hagelin scored a pair of goals to back a 32-save effort from Cam Talbot in the road victory over the Blue Jackets. Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh each contributed a goal and assist to help the Rangers get to 8-8-0 on the season.

The rookie Talbot has done an excellent job of spelling No. 1 goaltender Henrik Lundqvist this season, going 3-1-0 with a 1.97 goals against average in four outings.

"He played great again," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said of Talbot. "He had timely saves when we needed them and he's been rock-solid since his first start."

Lundqvist, however, expects to get the start on Sunday. He is 15-9-1 with a 1.73 GAA in 25 career games against the Panthers.

Beginning with Sunday's test, the Rangers are playing two straight and four of their next five on home ice. New York is 3-2-0 at MSG this season.

Florida, meanwhile, is in the middle of an epic slide, having lost eight straight while posting an 0-4-4 record. The team fired head coach Kevin Dineen and his staff after the seventh consecutive defeat, but interim coach Peter Horachek couldn't stop the bleeding on Saturday, as the Panthers dropped a 3-2 regulation decision in Ottawa.

Clarke MacArthur's second-period power-play goal was the difference, and Robin Lehner stopped 26 shots as Ottawa clipped the Panthers. Nick Bjugstad and Marcel Goc supplied offense for the Panthers, while Tim Thomas ended up with 29 saves in the loss.

Florida fell behind 2-0 just 2:04 into the opening period, as Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad scored just 19 seconds apart for the Sens. The Panthers played better the rest of the way, but never were able to catch Ottawa after the early onslaught.

"At this level, when you put yourself behind the eight-ball that early in the game, especially on unforced errors, the results won't be good," Horachek noted.

This is the longest losing streak for the Panthers since a 10-game skid (0-7-3) from March 19-April 8, 2011.

Florida has taken two of the past three meetings with the Rangers, but New York has claimed four of six and nine of the last 14 encounters in this series. The Blueshirts also have four wins in the last five meetings at MSG.

11/10 11:04:10 ET