Henrik Lundqvist was at the top of his game his last time out. Jake Allen’s been that way for two straight weeks.
When the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues, two of the NHL’s hottest teams, face off Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, scoring could be at a premium due to the play of those goaltenders.
New York (11-2-2) has vaulted to the top of the Metropolitan Division by virtue of a six-game winning streak in which Lundqvist and Antti Raanta have each played a major part. Lundqvist kept the run going by making 33 saves for his first shutout in Tuesday’s 3-0 home triumph over Carolina.
The Rangers have recorded points in 10 consecutive games (8-0-2) and are outscoring opponents 23-5 in winning six straight on home ice.
"Our confidence is really high, and our confidence rolls right down from our goalie," said forward Rick Nash, who had a goal and an assist in returning from a two-game absence caused by a sore back. "Hank’s one of the best goalies in the world, and it just kind of flows that way."
While Lundqvist owns a 1.15 goals-against average in going 5-0-1 over a six-start stretch, Allen has put up even better numbers of late. He’s 6-1-0 with a 0.88 GAA and .971 save percentage over his last seven appearances, claiming the No. 1 job after beginning the season in a timeshare with Brian Elliott.
Allen’s been especially good on this road trip. After stopping 45 shots in Saturday’s 4-0 victory at Nashville, he turned back 24 as St. Louis (11-3-1) won for the sixth time in seven games with Tuesday’s 2-0 decision over New Jersey.
"Each time I get on the ice I feel more at ease and more comfortable," Allen told the NHL’s official website. "I’ve said before the more games I play, the better I feel and that’s been the scenario since last year. There will be some bumps in the road, but it’s going the way I want it to go right now."
The Blues are 3-0-0 on this four-game trek, opening it with a 6-5 comeback win over rival Chicago on Nov. 4 that saw Allen stop 27 of 28 chances after relieving Elliott in the first period.
The streak has been aided by a power play that’s come to life, scoring three times in seven chances during the trip after an 0-for-21 spell over the previous six games.
New York fields one of the league’s top penalty kills at 88.0 percent and is 32 of 34 over its last 11 outings. The Rangers thwarted all six Carolina power-play chances, in large part due to Lundqvist’s work in the crease.
"Obviously we needed good goaltending to kill off the number of penalties we had, and we definitely got that," coach Alain Vigneault said.
St. Louis continues to thrive despite injuries to a number of key players. Absences by forwards Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny and Patrik Berglund prompted last week’s signing of Martin Havlat, with the veteran wing scoring in his Blues debut Tuesday.
"The way we’ve been going, he really helps us," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He was a good get for us. He’s a good fit."
St. Louis has dominated this series since 2000-01, going 12-2-2 with a tie.