NEW YORK — Playing a weak opponent back-to-back gave the New York Rangers a grand chance to enhance their winning streak.
One goal was all they required Dec. 21. Ryan McDonagh’s first-period score held up and Cam Talbot made 18 saves as the Rangers extended their victory run to six with a 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Eastern Conference-worst Hurricanes lost for the eighth time in nine games. A day earlier, the Rangers won 3-2 in a shootout in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“We’ll take the two wins, kind of in different fashions,” McDonagh said. “We did a good job of containing them and eliminating their opportunities.”
Talbot is 3-3-1 this season backing up Henrik Lundqvist, with all three of his victories being shutouts. “You never want to be the guy to come in and break the winning streak,” Talbot said. “I didn’t really have to do a whole lot tonight, the guys in front of me did an unbelievable job.”
McDonagh scored his second goal of the season 4:10 into the game. He slapped the puck in the slot past goaltender Anton Khudobin, who has yet to win this season (0-8-2).
The Rangers captain has points in seven of 10 games since returning to the lineup Nov. 28 after missing 11 games with a shoulder injury. Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan assisted on McDonagh’s latest goal.
The Rangers (17-10-4) have won 10 of their last 13 games to keep pace with Washington in a tight Metropolitan Division race. The Rangers host the Capitals on Dec. 23 before the three-day Christmas break.
The shutout was a league-leading eighth for the Rangers this season and the first time they have eight shutouts in their first 31 games since 1928-29, according to information the team got from the Elias Sports Bureau.
“We are no different than any team in the NHL. You can’t win if you don’t get goaltending,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “When we use Cam, he’s given us some real good performances.”
The Rangers outshot Carolina 31-18 in their first home game since Dec. 8, when they started their winning streak with a 4-3 overtime win against Pittsburgh. New York then won three straight in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.
The Rangers have outscored opponents 20-8 during the six-game streak and have allowed two goals or fewer in their last five contests. The struggling Hurricanes have little to focus on except working hard to reverse their fortunes.
“You try to keep the mood upbeat and keep telling guys it’s all part of a learning process,” Carolina defenseman John-Michael Lies said. “Our goaltender held us in the game. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get one for him.”
The Rangers have won 14 of their last 15 games against Carolina, including eight straight at home since Feb. 22, 2011.