Sticking to a well-worn mantra, the New York Rangers are simply taking things one game at a time in their bid for a playoff spot.
Hoping to extend a brief surge, the Rangers on Friday night also will try to snap a lengthy skid against the Montreal Canadiens -- the team immediately ahead of New York in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Rangers have been outscored 16-4 while losing five straight to the Canadiens, with three goals coming in three games this season. That lack of success is one reason why seventh-place New York (37-30-4) trails Montreal (39-25-7) by seven points with 11 games left.
New York (78 points) also is trying to hold off several teams looking to sneak into the postseason. Buffalo (76) holds the eighth and final playoff spot followed by Carolina (74), Atlanta and Toronto (72), and resurgent New Jersey (70).
While New York could easily move up or down the conference ladder over the coming weeks, the focus is squarely on its Original Six rival for now.
"No matter who we're playing, we need two points," forward Ryan Callahan said Thursday. "We're playing a good team in Montreal, who's right there in front of us. It's a big game going into (Madison Square) Garden."
New York will be looking for its third straight win. After a lackluster loss at Anaheim on March 9, the Rangers slipped past San Jose in a shootout Saturday, then beat the Islanders 6-3 on Tuesday at MSG.
Callahan broke a 2-all tie midway through the second period before Marian Gaborik scored the first of his two goals, giving him 20 during another injury-shortened season. Erik Christensen and Bryan McCabe each added a goal and assist.
"We had a bit of a hiccup there in Anaheim. Other than that, we have been playing our identity hockey," Callahan said.
McCabe said the Rangers must dictate the pace in order to end their slide against Montreal.
"(The) key for us is our game, keep setting the tone, keep the pressure on them, working hard, working as a team," he said.
They also need to solve Carey Price. The All-Star has beaten New York twice this season, including a 35-save performance in a 2-0 win Feb. 5 in Montreal.
"They got a great goaltender having a good year," McCabe said.
Price tied Detroit's Jimmy Howard for the league lead with his 34th win Thursday, stopping 35 shots through overtime in a 3-2 shootout victory over Tampa Bay.
"It starts with your goaltender. Carey was strong," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said of Price, 5-1-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and two shutouts in his last six road games.
The Rangers won't miss having to try and stop him -- Plekanec has 53 points this season, and four goals and four assists in a seven-game point streak versus New York.
The Canadiens will almost certainly be trying to continue their mastery over the Rangers against Henrik Lundqvist, Also an All-Star goaltender, Lundqvist will try to reach 30 wins for the sixth consecutive season.
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