Rangers eye second straight win vs. Panthers

(SportsNetwork.com) – The New York Rangers appear to have dodged a major
injury scare.

With good luck seemingly on their side, the Rangers try to make it two
victories in a row on Monday night as they host the Florida Panthers.

The Rangers had scored just one goal over back-to-back losses coming out of
the All-Star break and things looked as though they would go from bad to worse
when star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist took a puck to his throat on Saturday
versus the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lundqvist’s neck became exposed on the play as captain Ryan McDonagh’s stick
came up and lifted his netminder’s mask as he battled in front of the net.
Lundqvist said he never saw the shot from Brad Malone before it struck him in
the throat 3:02 into the second period.

Lundqvist fell to the ice and kicked out his legs as he tried to catch his
breath, but miraculously stayed in the game and made 31 saves in a 4-1 victory
over the Hurricanes.

“When I got hit, obviously it was pretty painful and it was hard to breathe
for a couple of minutes, and I was light-headed and a little worried at first.
(The trainers) told me to just breathe and then slowly it got better,”
Lundqvist told the Rangers’ website.

Rick Nash scored his 29th goal of the season, second most in the NHL, and
Chris Kreider, Dan Boyle and Dominic Moore all lit the lamp as well.

But the star of the game was Lundqvist according to head coach Alain

“The first half of the game we might have been up 2-0, and then 2-1 after they
scored, but it was mostly because of Hank’s play,” said Vigneault. “We may
have been leading 2-0 after the first period, but (the Hurricanes) were the
better team.”

Regardless, the Rangers are tied with the Capitals for third place in the
Metropolitan Division, four points behind second-place Pittsburgh.

Lundqvist appears as though he will be available to play tonight, but the
Rangers could be cautious and give backup Cam Talbot his first career start
versus the Panthers.

If not, Lundqvist will look to improve on his 19-9-1 record versus Florida in
which he has posted a 1.76 goals against average, .938 save percentage and
five shutouts in 29 games.

The Panthers, meanwhile, try to avoid falling further back in the playoff race
as a current 1-5-1 rut has the club eight points off a wild card spot.

Florida is coming off a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and it
appeared as though the Panthers would get shut out until Brandon Pirri scored
with 1:29 to go.

Roberto Luongo stopped 11 shots, giving up two first-period goals while
getting almost no offensive support.

“We got to do a better job of being ready right off the hop,” said Florida
forward Shawn Thornton.

The Panthers will visit the New York Islanders on Tuesday, so it is unknown if
Luongo or backup Al Montoya will start tonight.

Luongo is 7-12-1 with a 2.83 GAA, .915 save percentage and two shutouts in 22
career games versus the Rangers, including 21 starts, while Montoya is 1-3-0
in this matchup with a 4.24 GAA and .875 save percentage.

Montoya, the sixth overall pick of the 2004 draft by the Rangers, made 29
saves in a 5-2 loss at home to the Blueshirts on Dec. 31. Lundqvist stopped 18
shots in the win.

The Rangers have won four in a row and eight of their past 10 overall versus
the Panthers while also claiming five of the past six meetings at home.