The New York Rangers are on their longest winning streak of the season as they attempt to inch closer to a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference.
The competition level will significantly increase Sunday afternoon when the Rangers host the league-leading Boston Bruins.
New York is on its first four-game winning streak since Oct. 30-Nov. 6, 2018, and is attempting to win five in a row for the first time since Oct. 31-Nov. 11, 2017. After a 3-2 home loss to Buffalo on Feb. 7, the Rangers were nine points out of the second wild card, and they enter Sunday seven points out.
The Rangers began the streak Feb. 9 with a 4-1 home win over the Los Angeles Kings and then swept a three-game trip through Winnipeg, Minnesota and Columbus. After coming back from a two-goal deficit Thursday, the Rangers posted a 3-1 win Friday when Chris Kreider scored with 3:11 remaining.
"We think we made some great strides and just continue to play good hockey at a clutch time right now," New York coach David Quinn said Friday. "Obviously, last night, coming back the way we did, and then tonight, scoring late to win the game. We've talked about the fact that we've had to come together as a team over the last few months, and it hasn't showed more than it has the last few games."
Kreider, who is among several Rangers on a hot streak, is a pending unrestricted free agent, so the front office needs to decide whether to keep him or trade him by the Feb. 24 deadline. Kreider enters what could be his final week as a Ranger with seven goals in his last nine games and 29 points (17 goals, 12 assists) over his last 28 games.
Mika Zibanejad set up Kreider's goal after getting the tying goal and scoring in the shootout Thursday, and he enters with at least one point in eight of his last 10 games. Artemi Panarin also had an assist Friday and he enters with 77 points, the most by a Ranger through 57 games since Jaromir Jagr had 86 in 2005-06.
The Rangers will face the challenge of stopping one of the league's top goal scorers in David Pastrnak, who scored his 42nd goal of the season during a 4-1 home win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Pastrnak scored his latest goal after getting a hat trick in Wednesday's win over Montreal.
Pastrnak's goal came after Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron and Charlie Coyle scored in a span of 4:29 during the second period. Brad Marchand added two assists, giving him 50 assists for the third straight season, and he has four assists in his last two games.
"We had it tonight," Marchand said. "We could tell. We came out so hard, and we really controlled the play the entire way through the game."
The Bruins hold a one-point lead on Tampa Bay in the race for the Presidents' Trophy and are 12-3-1 in their last 16 games since dropping three straight from Dec. 31-Jan. 4. During the last 16 games, they have scored at least four goals nine times.
Boston has won the last three meetings with the Rangers
Bergeron had a hat trick and Marchand had five points in a 7-4 rout in New York on Oct. 27. Pastrnak scored the tying goal, and David Krejci scored the game-winner 1:40 into overtime in 3-2 win on Nov. 29 in Boston.
--Field Level Media