RALEIGH — RALEIGH -- The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers will see quite a bit each other the next few weeks.
And if the two games soon to come are like the one Monday night, they will be close, tight-checking, low-scoring affairs dominated by the goaltenders.
Brandon Dubinsky scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and Henrik Lundqvist did his part in net, defusing threat after threat, to lift the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Canes at the RBC Center.
It was the first of three games in a 13-day period for the Canes and Rangers in another interesting NHL scheduling quirk. And it took some huge saves by Lundqvist and in the final minutes to preserve the victory.
Marc Staal's empty-netter in the final minute finished it off for the Rangers.
Lundqvist and Canes goaltender Cam Ward were at their best in a scoreless first period, making the toughest of saves seem simply executed.
Then, in the first 1:14 of the second period, both teams scored. Sergei Samsonov gave the Canes a 1-0 lead 46 seconds into the second, only to have Marian Gaborik answer for the Rangers. After two periods, it was 1-1 -- Lundqvist with 19 saves and Ward with 14.
Something had to give. One of the teams had to make a winning move.
Dubinsky gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 1:21 of the third after a Carolina turnover in the Canes' zone. Vinny Prospal made a crisp cross-ice pass to Gaborik, who fed Dubinsky breaking in alone to Ward's right.
The Hurricanes came into the game seeking to add to a modest three-game winning streak at the RBC Center. The Rangers, meanwhile, had battled back from a horrendous 1-6-2 stretch to post road wins against the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers.
New York's struggles before the two wins seemingly had the Rangers at a breaking point -- especially volatile coach John Tortorella. Veterans Wade Redden and Ales Kotalik were scratches the last two games, which didn't sit well with either, although both were back in the lineup Monday for the Canes.
Samsonov found a way to beat Lundqvist. After a Brandon Sutter shot, he collected the puck and circled the net and popped in a wraparound shot as Lundqvist was tangled up with forward Sean Avery.
It was Samsonov's second goal in as many games and Sutter's assist his first point in five games. But the lead lasted just 28 seconds.
Gaborik, who leads the NHL with 25 goals, had an easy shot after a Brandon Dubinsky attempt as the puck eluded defenseman Tim Gleason in front of the crease. At 1:14 of the second, it was 1-1.
Gleason returned after missing three games with concussion-type symptoms. He was fitted with a half-shield for the game but had it removed after the first period.
The first period was all about Ward and Lundqvist, who matched each other's best saves.
Ward's biggest save in the first came when Gaborik was unchecked and attempted a shot in close. Lundqvist made a nifty stop on a Ray Whitney shot after a Rangers turnover in their zone, with Tuomo Ruutu soon to follow.
The Canes had a good scoring chance go awry in the first when Eric Staal led a rush and passed to defenseman Jay Harrison, who couldn't get his stick on the puck with an open net.
In the second, Rod Brind'Amour forced a turnover and had a two-on-one with Scott Walker, but Brind'Amour fanned on a shot.
The Canes did not have a penalty until 5:18 of the third, when Staal was called for goaltender interference.
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RALEIGH -- The New York Rangers' goaltender was a little better than the Carolina Hurricanes' goaltender.
The Rangers' best player was a little better than the Hurricanes' best player.
Finally, the Rangers were a little better on their scoring chances and a little grittier defensively than the Hurricanes.
In a game Monday night that had a playoff feel to it, that was the difference. The Rangers won 3-1 as goaltender Henrik Lundqvist turned back nearly everything the Canes threw at him while Marian Gaborik had a goal and assist and was an offensive force.
Gaborik did not have the winning goal, but his assist set up the winner. Brandon Dubinsky beat Canes goaltender Cam Ward at 1:21 of the third for a 2-1 lead, and defenseman Marc Staal added an empty-netter in the final seconds as the Rangers won their third straight on the road.
Sergei Samsonov had the Canes' only goal, early in the second, but Eric Staal had any number of chances to score. In the final minutes of the third, he was denied a couple of times by Lundqvist, leaving the Canes' star center frustrated.
Seeing his younger brother wing a long bounding shot out of the Rangers' zone and into the empty net didn't help Eric Staal's frame of mind, either.
For the Hurricanes, who had win three straight at home, suffice it to say it was a tough loss.
"There were good chances at both ends and both teams needed tennis rackets around the net," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "But there was a lot of bodies and stick-swinging and it was a pretty physical game. A very fast game.
"It was a hard-fought, well-played game. There was a good crowd in the building and some good hits."
Lundqvist, who covers so much room in net, had 32 saves and was forced to make 15 stops in the third. In the final four minutes, Samsonov had a good chance off the rebound of a Tim Gleason shot from the point, and Staal soon was whacking at the puck to Lundqvist's right.
"Lundqvist is a good goaltender and we knew coming into the game it would be tough to score goals," said Ward, who had 28 saves. "They play well defensively and I thought our guys did a good job at putting the puck at the net and forcing some rebounds out of him, but it was awfully difficult for us to get on those second opportunities."
Other than Samsonov, who scored on a wraparound 46 seconds into the second, no one got the puck past Lundqvist. And Gaborik, who leads the NHL in goals, answered Samsonov's goal with one of his own 28 seconds later after a wicked bounce off the end boards that surprised Ward.
"I was being a little too aggressive," Ward said. "Next thing you know I'm out of the net and it's a tap-in."
Dubinsky got a piece of the puck and Gaborik finished it off for his 25th goal.
"He's such a talented player," Ward said of Gaborik, who has 35 goals in his last 44 games. "You've got to treat him like the Sidney Crosby, like the (Alex) Ovechkin.
"You've got to play him tough and I thought we did a good job, but he's hard to contain. He got his opportunities, but we also got our opportunities."
Staal led a rush into the Rangers zone in the first and had defenseman Jay Harrison open backdoor, but Harrison couldn't get his stick on the puck. Midway the second, the Canes' Rod Brind'Amour forced a turnover and had a two-on-one with Scott Walker, but Brind'Amour -- without a goal the last 30 games -- fanned on the shot.
"We had a few chances to bury it and we didn't," center Brandon Sutter said. "But it's hard to sit here and be negative about it. I think we played a pretty good game."
The Canes had just one penalty -- a goaltender-interference call against Staal in the third. Ward played well. The Canes had 33 shots.
After missing three games with concussion-type symptoms, Gleason was back in the lineup and ditched his helmet shield after the first period. The defenseman was on the ice for all three Rangers goals, and couldn't quite corral the puck in front of the crease when Gaborik scored.
"Both teams tried to play smart and not take stupid penalties and competed real hard," Maurice said. "There was a lot of intensity in that game."
And the Rangers were just a little better this night.
With the score tied 1-1 after two periods, the Rangers converted a Hurricanes turnover into the winning goal by Brandon Dubinsky at 1:21 of the third as Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal had assists.
When will the Canes' Eric Staal start turning his scoring chances into goals?
NUMBER TO KNOW
25. The number of goals this season by the Rangers' Marian Gaborik, the NHL's leader.
1. Marian Gaborik, New York. Goal, assist for speedy forward.
2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York. Had 32 saves, was big in third.
3. Brandon Dubinsky, New York. Scores game-winner and has assist.
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