Playoff-bound Rangers try to get on track vs. 'Canes
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers didn't have to break a sweat to clinch a postseason berth Monday night, but the playoff-bound club will try to halt a two-game slide when it hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Tuesday's clash at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers officially earned a spot in the 2014 playoffs thanks to New Jersey's regulation loss to Calgary on Monday night. New York could have locked up a postseason berth on its own by gaining a single point on Saturday, but dropped a 3-2 regulation decision against the visiting Ottawa Senators.
With 91 points through 79 games, the Rangers are currently second in the Metropolitan Division and two points ahead of the third-place Philadelphia Flyers.
The Rangers should feel good about facing tonight's opponent, as New York had won 10 straight in this series before the Hurricanes recorded a 3-1 home win on March 11. That was the first victory for Carolina in this matchup since another home win on Jan. 20, 2011.
New York still carries a five-game home winning streak against the Hurricanes.
After losing Thursday's 3-2 shootout decision to Colorado at the end of a four-game road trip, the Rangers returned home to lose to Ottawa in regulation. Senators goaltender Robin Lehner stopped 41 shots, including 13 in the third period, to frustrate New York in the 3-2 setback at MSG.
Mats Zuccarello netted both goals for the Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist came up with 31 saves in the loss.
"It's obviously very disappointing," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said in reference to his club failing to lock up a postseason berth. "We are still in a good spot here. It's in our hands to get that win in our next game at home and hopefully secure home ice in the first round."
New York is playing the second test of a three-game homestand, which will end Thursday against Buffalo before the Blueshirts cap their regular season Saturday in Montreal. The Rangers are 18-17-4 as the host compared to an impressive 25-14-1 road record.
Sitting eight points out of a playoff spot with four games left, Carolina is on the brink of being officially eliminated from the playoffs. When the inevitable happens it will mark the Hurricanes' fifth consecutive year out of the postseason.
Carolina had won consecutive games and earned a point in five straight (3-0-2) before losing Saturday against visiting New Jersey, 3-1. Dainius Zubrus scored twice and Cory Schneider stopped 26 shots, as the Devils stayed relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race while pushing the Hurricanes closer to the edge of elimination.
Jeff Skinner supplied Carolina's lone goal, while Anton Khudobin allowed two goals on 22 shots for the Hurricanes. Skinner's goal was his 31st of the season, matching the career-best total he set as a rookie in 2010-11.
"I don't think we had our legs," Skinner admitted. "We couldn't really generate much, but I think that's just sort of ... we just need to work a little harder."
The Hurricanes will play three of their last four regular-season games on the road, where the club is 16-17-5 this season. Carolina will host Washington on Thursday before ending the campaign with stops in Detroit and Philadelphia this weekend.
04/08 11:01:10 ET