The New York Rangers are looking to bounce back after their winning streak was snapped despite another terrific performance from Cam Talbot.
A matchup against the last-place Carolina Hurricanes could help.
New York goes for a five-game season sweep and 16th victory in 17 matchups against the Hurricanes when they meet in Raleigh on Saturday night.
The Rangers (44-18-7) enter the weekend five points ahead of the Islanders for the Metropolitan Division lead and two back of Montreal for the Eastern Conference’s top spot. New York, which has three games in hand on both teams, had surrendered three goals during a five-game run before falling 1-0 to Chicago on Wednesday.
Talbot finished with 30 saves, his only blemish coming 7:19 into the third period after Dan Boyle rang a shot off the Blackhawks’ crossbar.
"The difference was we go down, get a chance, hit the crossbar, then they come down and score," center Derek Stepan said. "That’s kind of the way hockey is."
Talbot has allowed two goals or fewer in all seven of his starts this month, going 5-1-1 with a 1.00 goals-against average and one shutout. He’s 12-2-2 with a 2.04 mark since Feb. 10, tied for the league’s second-most wins during that stretch.
Talbot’s play has allowed No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist to take it slow as he nears a return from a damaged blood vessel in his neck.
"I’ve been impressed, but not surprised," Lundqvist told the league’s official website. "(Cam has) been winning games for the team and he’s been playing at a really high level. So for me there’s no stress to come back. Obviously I want to play, I want to come back, but he has things under control. It’s been fun to watch."
Talbot turned away all 18 shots in a 1-0 win over Carolina on Dec. 21 in his only appearance in the series. The Rangers have limited the Hurricanes to four goals in as many games this season, winning each to improve to 15-1-0 in the series since February 2011. Seven of those victories have come in New York’s last eight visits to PNC Arena.
The Hurricanes (26-35-9) return home looking to avoid a sixth defeat in seven games after falling 4-0 to Montreal on Thursday. Anton Khudobin made 18 saves as Carolina came up empty despite outshouting the Canadiens 27-12 over the final two periods.
"All in all we can be better than that," coach Bill Peters said. "You’ve got to be willing to get on the inside. You see where they scored their goals from: in tight from the blue paint on seconds and thirds. I didn’t think we had the conviction to do that."
The shutout was the Hurricanes’ second in four games, and they also struggled in Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Ottawa.
"We’ve got to find a way to either get a goal or get some momentum at some point in the game and change things," defenseman Justin Faulk said. "We need to show up every night and work hard, whether it’s a practice or a game."
Faulk leads the team with 45 points, but he’s been limited to one in the last five contests. He has three assists in 11 career matchups against the Rangers.
Carolina has scored seven goals during a season-worst four-game home losing streak.