Rangers, Canadiens vie for supremacy in pivotal contest - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Rangers, Canadiens vie for supremacy in pivotal contest

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By Matt Beardmore

Stats Writer

Montreal (41-27-10) at NY Rangers (40-30-9), 7 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers will make the playoffs for

the fourth consecutive season if they win their final three

games.

But the way they've struggled lately, the Rangers can't afford

to look ahead at a potential playoff berth. They're just going

to worry about their next game.

Tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern

Conference, New York looks to continue its recent dominance at

Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night when it hosts a Montreal

Canadiens club that also hopes to move closer to a postseason

berth.

The Rangers (40-30-9) open the final week of the regular season

with four losses in their last five games, but even with a

playoff berth still within their grasp, John Tortorella's club

knows it can only concentrate on Tuesday night's opponent.

"It's not rocket science here - it's not three games, it's one

game," said Tortorella, 9-7-2 since replacing the fired Tom

Renney. "Everybody knows where we're at, what the situation is,

we don't have to talk about that anymore. It's about finding a

way to win one hockey game."

If New York and Florida both win out, the Rangers would secure

the final playoff spot based on more victories. Montreal is

seventh in the East, three points ahead of both the Rangers and

Panthers.

After falling to top-seeded Boston 1-0 on Saturday in what could

be the Rangers' first-round matchup, New York returns to MSG for

its last two home games before the regular-season finale at

Philadelphia on Sunday.

The Rangers are 6-1-0 on home ice since a 2-1 loss to the

Panthers on Feb. 26.

"When the Garden is loud and it's rocking, it can really pump up

the team, but it also works the other way for us," New York

captain Chris Drury told the team's official Web site Monday.

"For the opponent, it makes it a really tough place to play."

It had been a tough place for the Canadiens before they snapped

a four-game slide there on Jan. 7 with a 6-3 victory.

Robert Lang recorded a hat trick and Roman Hamrlik had three

assists as Montreal won its first game visiting the Rangers

since a 4-1 victory on Oct. 31, 2005.

Lang is out indefinitely with a torn left Achilles' tendon

suffered in a 3-1 loss to the Bruins on Feb. 1.

Lately, the injury front doesn't look much better as leading

scorer Andrei Markov (knee) and fellow defenseman Mathieu

Schneider (shoulder) were hurt in Saturday's 6-2 win over

Toronto - the Canadiens' fifth victory in six games. Neither

will play Tuesday, according to Montreal coach Bob Gainey.

The Canadiens (41-28-10), who had won three straight, could have

moved past idle Pittsburgh for the sixth seed in the East, but

couldn't hold on to a 2-1 third-period lead, falling 3-2 to

Ottawa on Monday.

"We had the game in our control and we let it slip away but

there are three games left," Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges

said.

Alex Kovalev looks to extend his point streak to eight on

Tuesday after scoring his 25th of the season Monday. Kovalev has

two goals and an assist this season against the Rangers, who

have won two of the three matchups.

Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in Monday's loss. He stopped 39

shots in the Jan. 7 win.

Carey Price is 1-0-1 with a 2.41 GAA against the Rangers this

season.

New York's Henrik Lundqvist, meanwhile, is 4-2-0 with a 2.17 GAA

in six career home starts against Montreal.

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