By Nicolino Dibenedetto
(AP) — Danny Briere’s scoring surge has helped the Philadelphia Flyers maintain their slim lead in the Eastern Conference. The New York Rangers are trying to capitalize on a chance to gain ground on their Atlantic Division rivals.
Briere looks to match the longest scoring streak of his career with another goal at Madison Square Garden when the Flyers face the Rangers on Sunday night.
Briere is among the league leaders with 24 goals and leads the Flyers (28-11-5) with 40 points. He has continued his momentum from last season’s playoffs when he had 12 goals and 18 assists to lead Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup finals.
The right wing is already two goals shy of matching his output from the 2009-10 regular season. His production is a big reason why the Flyers lead the East and the division by one point on Pittsburgh.
Briere has goals in five straight games, totaling six and four assists during that span. A goal Sunday would equal the longest streak of his career.
He scored in six straight games Jan. 12-21, 2001, and Jeff Carter is the last Flyer to accomplish the feat Feb. 8-March 3 of last season.
Briere could be poised to match those streaks. He has 10 goals in 14 games at MSG, scoring once in each of his last four visits.
He continued his run Friday, scoring the opener of a three-goal third period to spark a 5-2 win at Atlanta. The came a night after a 7-5 loss at Boston ended the Flyers’ four-game winning streak.
“It took us a while – the third period – to get it going,” Briere said. “You try not to get frustrated by (losing to Boston), but the big part of a win like (Friday) is the confidence it brings.”
That confidence could help as the Flyers conclude a stretch of nine of 10 games on the road. They’re 6-3-0 in that span, and have won both season meetings – both at home – against the Rangers (26-17-3) by 4-1 scores with the most recent on Dec. 18.
Philadelphia has dropped four of its last five visits to New York.
The Rangers, six points behind the Flyers in the Atlantic, are looking to rebound from Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Montreal after they were outshot 41-33 despite a 21-12 advantage in the third period. The defeat came two nights after an impressive 1-0 win over NHL-leading Vancouver.
“I’m not sure what it’s from – from a hard game against Vancouver, I don’t know, it just took us a couple of periods to get going,” coach John Tortorella said. “They’re a quick team but we never got near a puck. We were just so slow in the third period. I felt we got our legs underneath us and got to the game that we need to play, and that’s chip ‘em in and grind and try to hold your neutral zone. It wasn’t just one person in the first two periods, it was our whole group. We just looked slow.”
Henrik Lundqvist might get a fourth consecutive start after making 38 saves Saturday following a 31-save shutout against the Canucks. The All-Star, who allowed more than two goals for the first time in eight starts Saturday, has been in net for both losses to the Flyers this season.
Marian Gaborik’s seven-game goal drought is his longest since a career-high 14-game stretch in 2003-04 with Minnesota. He has two goals in 15 games against Philadelphia.
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