SO OFTEN, New York Rangers' winning streaks have been fueled by the stonewall goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist. He is still a big part of the equation, but suddenly he has an ever-improving, young supporting cast that is making this group of Rangers a legitimate threat in the NHL.
Rookie forward Carl Hagelin scored twice for his second career multi-goal game, and Lundqvist stopped all 28 shots he faced as the Rangers beat the New York Islanders, 3-0, last night in Madison Square Garden for their fifth straight victory.
The names of high-priced forwards Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards are quite familiar, and they have both played a key role in the Rangers' surge to the top of the standings. But suddenly, youngsters such as Hagelin and defenseman Stu Bickel, have contributed to New York's recent success.
Despite injuries to defensemen Marc Staal and Michael Sauer, the Rangers haven't missed a beat.
"There is great depth in this organization," said Hagelin, who also scored twice against Buffalo on Dec. 10. "There's a lot of guys out and it shows that the organization is doing a great job preparing guys for this. It's fun."
Hagelin, in just his 16th NHL game, scored in the second and third periods for the Rangers (22-8-4) - the Atlantic Division leaders, who leapfrogged defending Stanley Cup champion Boston into first place in the Eastern Conference.
"Both of those goals, it was really just being in the right spot at the right time, and guys making good plays," Hagelin said. "I didn't do much."
The Rangers finished a 3-0 homestand that included a pair of victories over the Islanders in a 5-day span. New York's past four victories have been against division rivals.
At Raleigh, N.C., Cam Ward made 23 saves and was credited with a bizarre empty-net goal, leading the Carolina Hurricanes past the New Jersey Devils, 4-2. Ward's first career goal came at the end of a strange sequence. New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk's errant pass for Adam Henrique from the end line wound up going the length of the ice and into an empty net with 29.4 seconds left. Officials initially awarded the goal to Brandon Sutter before a postgame review determined he never touched the puck.
* At Buffalo, Brayden McNabb capped the Sabres' four-goal first period with his first NHL goal and Buffalo cruised to a 4-2 win over the Washington Capitals.
* At Nashville, Valtteri Filppula scored a pair of goals to lead the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-1 win over the Predators. Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary also scored for Detroit, which stopped a two-game skid.
* At St. Louis, Adam Cracknell scored the tiebreaking goal after being recalled from the minors earlier in the day and the Blues' slumping power play carried them to a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars. The Blues are 15-3-4 under Ken Hitchcock.
* At St. Paul, Jan Hejda scored the go-ahead goal at 10:20 of the third period and the Colorado Avalanche snapped a nine-game road losing streak by beating the Wild, 4-2, extending Minnesota's winless streak to seven games.
* At Chicago, Viktor Stalberg scored two goals in the Blackhawks' 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
* At Los Angeles, Willie Mitchell and Dustin Brown scored third-period goals and the Kings held off the Phoenix Coyotes, 4-3.
* At Vancouver, Alex Burrows scored a shorthanded goal and had an assist to lead the Canucks over the Edmonton Oilers, 5-3.
A day after Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson tweeted that he had signed a new contract, general manager Brian Burke made it official, announcing the deal during an AHL game in Toronto. Terms were not announced.