March 31, 2014

Consecutive wins were commonplace for the New York Rangers two months ago, but sustained struggles since might have them more appreciative of their current success.

A third straight victory could follow Sunday in Ottawa, where the Senators are trying to avoid a losing streak of the same length.

The Rangers (26-16-5) were 16-3-2 on Nov. 23 when they last experienced a winning streak, though they put that drought behind them with Friday's 4-1 win in Carolina following Tuesday's 3-2 home win over Vancouver. J.T. Miller scored twice against the Hurricanes and has four goals in his last four games.

"I think we came out really focused on this one," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. "We set the tone in the first with a lot of good energy. We've done a lot of good things in the last two games. Our confidence is building and we're taking advantage of it right now."

New York's seven goals in two games follows a 2-2-1 stretch in which it managed 10, and it's crediting the outburst to a display of order in the offensive zone.

"Everything starts with our forecheck, and the only way you can win is if you get the puck, and that's why we practice our forecheck and structure," Kevin Hayes told the team's official website. "Tonight that was very valuable for us."

Rather than necessarily fixing their penalty kill on the other end, they've simply stayed out of the box while going 2 for 2 on the PK after a 5-7-1 stretch on which they'd gone 26 for 40 (65.0 percent).

The Rangers have won both meetings this season, including a 2-1 shootout victory Nov. 14 as part of a four-game win streak in Ottawa while outscoring the Senators 18-7.

Lundqvist has been in goal for both games and has a 1.46 goals-against average and .944 save percentage over a 3-1-0 span in the series. He's also on a three-game personal winning streak and has a 1.65 GAA and .947 save percentage over a 4-1-0 span.

Neither of his potential counterparts have been on that level. Andrew Hammond played in Friday's 5-2 home loss to the Islanders a night after relieving Craig Anderson in a 6-3 loss at New Jersey.

The Senators (22-20-6) have allowed 3.92 goals per game during a 4-8-0 stretch to offset the four-game point streaks of Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad.

"We're struggling with the details and it has nothing to do with effort or caring, it's a matter of executing," said Hammond, who has a 4.75 GAA and .841 save percentage in his last three games.

Anderson has also struggled with 3.68 and .882 marks over a 3-5-0 stretch, and the veteran has lost his last four against the Rangers.

The slump has Ottawa on the outside of the playoff picture as it enters the second of a seven-game span featuring six at home. The Senators have lost three of four in their own building, though the Rangers have given up an average of 3.57 goals over a 3-9-2 road stretch.

"It's gut-check time for us here," Ottawa's Mark Borowiecki told the team's official website. "This is kind of when you find out what a team's made of. This is that stretch where teams are going to start pulling away. That kind of parity you see in the East is going to go away. So for us to make that push and stay in the hunt, we're going to have to really look each other in the eye and make sure we have what it takes."

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