Brandon Dubinsky's third-period goal at 7:49 off of a centering feed from Ryan Callahan amid a flurry of bodies in front of the net proved all that the New York Rangers needed to win their fifth straight game and seventh in their past eight games, 1-0, over the Florida Panthers.
The Rangers have also won their fourth in a row on home ice, improving their Madison Square Garden record to 18-16-3. Henrik Lundqvist now has 10 shutouts on the season to lead the NHL, stopping all 22 shots on net.
Don't be worried that not dominating the lowly Panthers on the scoresheet doesn't bode well for their playoff surge. The Panthers have played the Rangers very tough this season, winning the middle two games in the series and bottling up any Rangers offense. The Blueshirts stuck with it tonight, though, despite two-thirds of the game being a snoozefest because the Panthers' continually iced the puck when the Rangers mounted any pressure. There was also only one power play in the entire game, a Rangers man advantage in the first period.
Lately, Tomas Vokoun just seems to play his better games against the Rangers, and tonight was no different. Though he made 32 saves and was sharp in net, the one knock on the Rangers in this game was that they didn't make his job any harder by getting bodies in front of the net. One of their few chances right at the crease was Dubinsky's goal, a hard-working effort from New York's evolving first line, Callahan and Artem Anisimov included. Dubinsky now has 22 goals on the season; each member of this line is riding a four-game point streak -- and Anisimov now has 10 points in his past eight games.
Florida isn't a very strong offensive team, and the Rangers exposed that problem for the Panthers tonight. For the most part, Lundqvist had one of his easiest games in a long time, as the Panthers had very few chances from close range. A last-second attempt with the Vokoun pulled nearly knotted the game at 1 but the side-angle pass and deflection hit the near post.
Chalk this up as a game a playoff-bound team should win, and the Rangers did so tonight. Their recent hot streak has put them -- with 84 points -- just three points behind sixth-place Montreal and three points ahead of eighth-place Buffalo. Rangers face the Senators Thursday night.