Two of the NHL's best goaltenders are expected to face off Wednesday night when Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers seek their 10th consecutive home win at the expense of reigning Vezina and Hart Trophy winner Carey Price at Madison Square Garden in a showdown of Eastern Conference co-leaders.
Lundqvist stopped 31 shots for his second shutout in six starts Monday night, beating Nashville 3-0 for his league-leading 12th win. The 2012 Vezina winner was at his best in the first period, helping New York (16-3-2) kill off 7:21 worth of short-handed play while being outshot 14-3 in the opening 20 minutes.
"Going into every game I don't expect us to play perfect for 60 minutes," Lundqvist told the league's official website. "As a goalie you need to be there when your team is not on their toes, like tonight taking some penalties early. But the fun part is once I take care of my part I know they're going to get going. It's a fun way to win games when you help each other out."
The nine-game home win streak is tied for second-longest in franchise history, and the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers are now chasing the club mark of 14 established in the 1939-40 season. During this home streak, Lundqvist is 6-0-0 with a 1.17 goals-against average while helping New York kill off 25 of its opponents' 26 power plays.
Rick Nash followed his Saturday night hat trick with a first-period goal Monday. That two-game total was double his output from the first 17 as he tries to rediscover his 42-goal form from 2014-15.
"I think after you score a few goals you feel better with the puck," Nash said. "It was a long stretch where I was getting frustrated and couldn't score."
Nash hasn't scored a goal off Price since 2010, including a 3-0 road loss Oct. 15 when Price got the better of Lundqvist with 25 saves. Lundqvist stopped 29 shots in his fifth loss in his last six regular-season starts between the teams.
Price has backstopped Montreal (16-4-2) to a home-and-home sweep of the New York Islanders after missing nine games due to a lower-body injury. He made 21 stops in a 4-2 win Sunday when Alex Galchenyuk snapped a 2-all tie with 3:29 remaining.
The netminder has dominated the Rangers in the regular season of late, winning his last four starts against them and going 7-1-0 with a 0.37 GAA and five shutouts in his last eight.
Sunday's win came at a steep cost for the Habs, who lost Brendan Gallagher to two fractured fingers on his left hand after blocking a shot. Gallagher, tied for third on the team with 19 points, underwent surgery Monday and is expected to miss at least six weeks.
"It's a big loss. He's a big part of the success of this hockey team," coach Michel Therrien said following practice Tuesday. "... We lost Price for a period of time, but for me, it's not an excuse for not having success."
Devante Smith-Pelly, who missed Sunday's win with a lower-body injury, practiced on the first line with Max Pacioretty and center Tomas Plekanec on Tuesday. Plekanec has gone six games without a goal but does have five assists in that span. Pacioretty has four goals and five assists in his last eight.
Montreal's power play appears poised to challenge New York's stout penalty kill, converting 3 of 5 chances Sunday after failing to cash in on 14 opportunities in its previous four games.