New York Rangers coach John Tortorella has been delighted with the production from the line of Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, which has helped key their recent surge.
The trio may face a tough challenge, though, against a recently stingy Montreal Canadiens defense Tuesday night.
New York seeks its fourth straight home win over Montreal, which is looking to extend its winning streak to five games.
After a slow start, the Rangers (8-5-1) have elevated their play and gone 4-0-1 over their last five following a 2-1 win over Washington on Sunday.
Stepan scored the game-winner on the power play in the third period after Hagelin tied it in the second with help from Nash's assist. Tortorella said Stepan is playing his best hockey and also lauded the recent efforts of Hagelin, who has five goals and two assists over his last four games.
"He creates a ton of offense for us," Tortorella said of Hagelin, who had only a goal and an assist over his first 10 games. "He's been really good with (Stepan) and (Nash). It's been a pretty good line."
Stepan credits his success to playing with Hagelin and Nash, who has a goal and four assists during a four-game point streak.
"I have two wingers who are dynamic players," Stepan said. "I'm just doing whatever I can to anchor the middle of them.
"Our line seems to be clicking well and we just need to keep working."
Nash, who has scored at least 30 goals in five straight seasons, hasn't put up the goal-scoring numbers he'd like with only three total, though he's more than pleased the rest of his line is picking up the slack.
``They're not going in, but I'm getting the chances,' Nash said. "The exciting thing is Carl is putting them in."
Stepan has five assists in his last four games versus Montreal, which has played stellar defense and gotten solid goaltending of late.
The Canadiens (10-4-1) blanked Carolina 3-0 on Monday and have outscored opponents 8-1 over their last three. Peter Budaj made his second straight start as Carey Price recovers from the flu and finished with 19 saves, marking the second straight game they've allowed a season-low 19 shots.
Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty scored 18 seconds part in the third period for Montreal, which hasn't won five straight since Feb. 26-March 8, 2011.
``We're starting to feel more and more comfortable about playing those tight games. It's a great sign,' coach Michel Therrien said. ``It's good for the confidence of the team, of the players. Good teams start to feel comfortable in those games. I don't see any panic. Guys are sticking to the plan.'
Former Ranger Brandon Prust, who scored Montreal's first goal Monday, is returning to Madison Square Garden for the first time since signing a four-year contract with the Canadiens in the offseason.
"He's (just) a guy in a Montreal uniform," Tortorella said.
The Canadiens have won seven of the last 10 meetings, though the defeats in that stretch have come in the last three matchups in New York. Price, who made 26 saves in a 1-0 overtime win at Florida on Thursday to improve to 8-3-0 with a 2.06 goals-against average, could return Tuesday.
He's just 1-3-0 with a 3.95 GAA in his last four starts versus the Rangers, but Henrik Lundqvist is only 3-5-0 with a 2.99 GAA over his last eight starts against Montreal.
Lundqvist, though, has won each of his last four starts while posting a 1.47 GAA.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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