- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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With the playoffs already clinched and a little less than a week before regular season’s end, the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers continued to polish their game for the postseason.
In recording their fourth straight win, the Rangers have not only regained form since a middling stretch earlier this month, they have sparked a long-suffering power play that threatened to undercut the team’s hope for a deep postseason push.
With a pair of man-up goals in their 4-1 win over the lowly Canadiens, the Rangers tallied two goals in consecutive games for the first time this season. It was a significant accomplishment for a unit that has struggled consistently all year, entering Friday’s match ranked 28th in the league with a 14.7 percent completion rate.
Debby Wong/US Presswire
Michael Del Zotto wore the Broadway Hat on Friday.“Our five-on-five play has been great and our [penalty kill] has done a pretty good job for us all year. Having our [power play] clicking too, having all aspects of the game, we’ll be a really tough team to stop,” said defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who wore the team’s MVP Broadway Hat with his two-goal, three-point effort.
Converting a nice back-pass from Marian Gaborik, Del Zotto notched his second of the night with the Rangers on the man-advantage and 3:02 left in regulation.
With the Rangers leading 1-0 after Gaborik’s 39th of the season, Brad Richards was the first to score on the power play, beating Habs goaltender Carey Price 30 seconds into the second period for his 25th of the season.
“They’re moving the puck really well. They’re trying different things, being creative, having confidence,” said center Brian Boyle, who was promoted to play on the second line between Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan.
And while Boyle’s time on the power play has been limited with the first unit playing well, that’s a sacrifice he’s happy to make.
“Power play is fun to play, but if they keep scoring I don’t mind going out next shift five-on-five,” he said. “It’s been great. It’s been fun to watch. It’s going to be a key for us down the stretch and in the playoffs.”
Although the power play has abysmal for much of the year, the Rangers are almost infallible when the unit clicks. The team is an astounding 24-1-4 when they score at least one power-play goal.
Making his eighth consecutive start, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves as the Rangers recorded their 50th win of the season Friday -- only the third time in franchise history they have reached that milestone.
Refusing to let the clinched playoff berth weaken their resolve, the Blueshirts have instead re-established their trademark hard-nosed, blue-collar game heading into the last week of the regular season.
Good thing, too. Because they’ll need that style of play in the playoffs.
“That’s when you find out who you are,” coach John Tortorella said. “I love the way the team has played this year. We have another solid week of trying to go about our business and then we get to the real stuff.
96dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald