Just after Rick Nash rediscovered his scoring touch to help the New York Rangers get back on track offensively, keeping it going could be tough with Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators coming to Madison Square Garden.
New York seeks its third straight victory and 16th in 19 games Tuesday night when it tries to avoid an eighth consecutive regular-season home loss to the Senators.
Nash scored three times over a five-game winning streak in which the Rangers averaged 4.4 goals from Dec. 31-Jan. 10. However, he then matched his longest pointless stretch of the season at three games while New York (26-13-4) was blanked in back-to-back losses before pulling out a 2-1 win at Columbus on Friday.
The All-Star left wing bounced back Sunday with his fifth multigoal game in a 5-2 win at Pittsburgh, moving into a tie with Dallas’ Tyler Seguin for the league lead with 28 goals. Derek Stepan also scored twice after going eight games without one, and Derick Brassard ended a five-game drought.
The Rangers have won seven straight and 15 of 18 when Nash scores. He has six goals in his last seven meetings with the Senators (18-18-8) dating to his time with Columbus.
Even though Ottawa is out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and New York is in the thick of it, coach Alain Vigneault expects a difficult test as his Rangers look to avoid consecutive home losses for the first time in two months.
"We know Ottawa is a good team," coach Alain Vigneault said. "They made a coaching change (to Dave Cameron) and they’re obviously trying to impress the new staff, so we know we’re going to have to be ready."
One of his club’s top challenges will be solving Anderson, who has won all six of his regular-season starts at MSG while posting a 1.14 goals-against average – his best at any venue where he’s played more than once. He split four starts there in the first round of the 2012 playoffs but allowed just eight goals.
Anderson will get the nod between the pipes Tuesday and has been playing well, going 6-3-2 with a 1.90 GAA in his last 11 starts and not allowing more than three goals in any of them.
He finished with 25 saves Saturday in Ottawa’s fifth defeat in seven games, 3-2 to Carolina. Mark Stone and Cody Cecil provided the only goals for the Senators, who are 10 points out of a postseason spot.
"You look at yourself and can’t help but think your playoff hopes are dwindling after you lose games," said Stone, who is riding a five-game point streak. "We just need to find ways to get that success."
The Senators have had plenty of success at the Garden, where they are 13-1-1 in their last 15 regular-season visits without a loss since October 2009.
New York’s Henrik Lundqvist has been in net for all seven games during that home slide versus Ottawa. He’s lost four of five starts against the Senators overall with a 2.77 GAA since beating them in the 2012 playoffs.
The 2012 Vezina Trophy winner is expected to play after slamming his hand into a skate while trying to recover a loose puck Sunday. He’s gone 13-2-0 with a 1.69 GAA in his last 15 starts after finishing with 32 saves against the Penguins.