The newest Ranger smiled in the victorious dressing room Tuesday night after New York's solid 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Mara was acquired from Boston just before the trade deadline hours earlier and arrived in time to watch the third period. New York broke a tie with Boston and moved closer in the playoff race by shutting out the Canadiens for the first time since Oct. 12, 1990.
"The Rangers are two points ahead. That's a good thing," Mara said. "We're all battling right now for those final two playoff spots and I'm just looking forward to helping this team get in."
Marcel Hossa scored two more goals, Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves in his third shutout this season and fifth in two seasons, and the Rangers shook off trades and injuries to beat the Canadiens.
The Rangers moved within six points of Montreal, which is tied with the New York Islanders for seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Both teams lead the 11th-place Rangers by six points.
"We just didn't show up and do the things we need to do against a team that we could've put a long ways behind us," Montreal defenceman Sheldon Souray said. "The season is getting shorter."
New York, 1-1-1 on a season-high, six-game homestand, won for only the 13th time at Madison Square Garden.
"It was a huge game," Lundqvist said. "It felt like we played our road game.
"We kept it really simple."
Montreal had won four of five but was done in by penalties. The Rangers went 2-for-7 on the power play, and the Canadiens failed on their two chances.
"Maybe we're really hardheaded or we're just not listening," Souray said. "We've talked about being disciplined and coming out with more emotion and more energy and a little more focus.
"All the things we talk about we don't do enough of."
Hossa found the net twice in the second period, giving him eight goals in 11 games. Playing with captain Jaromir Jagr and Michael Nylander, in the absence of injured forwards Martin Straka and Brendan Shanahan, Hossa matched his career high of 10 goals set last season.
"I feel good with the puck especially when I play with Jags and Straka and Nylander on the first or second lines," Hossa said. "I am given the opportunity and confidence, and can show what I can do."
Jagr scored his second power-play goal in two games to give the Rangers a much-needed win. Matt Cullen's empty-net goal, with an assist from Hossa, sealed it with just under a minute left. Lundqvist's best stop came in the first when he turned aside Michael Ryder on a breakaway out of the penalty box.
Jarkko Immonen, recalled before the game to help offset the loss of Straka, helped set up Hossa's first goal. That sent the Rangers on the way to their fifth win in 10 games (5-3-2) after they traded defenceman Aaron Ward and Pascal Dupuis.
It was a good effort for New York, which gave up two short-handed goals in a 3-2 loss to Columbus on Saturday night after jumping out to a two-goal advantage.
The Rangers got in front of Montreal and 21-year-old goalie Jaroslav Halak and kept the Canadiens at bay.
Halak, filling in for injured regular Cristobal Huet, looked sharp in killing Ryder's tripping penalty but a tough bounce put Montreal in a hole as Ryder served a hooking infraction moments later.
Jagr swung around defenceman Francis Bouillon low in the right circle and fired a shot that hit the butt end of Halak's stick and bounced in for a 1-0 New York lead.
"It's disappointing to lose these two points," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "It was a big game for us and it was a big game for the Rangers.
"Why we came flat, I can't give you an answer."
Hossa scored twice in a 6:12 span, giving him his second multi-goal game in the NHL. He took a pass from Immonen near the left post and beat Halak at 9:32 during a power play. He made it 3-0 after Jagr's behind-the-back pass hit the skate of Rangers defenceman Marek Malik. Hossa cut around defenceman Mathieu Dandenault and scored with 4:16 left in the period.
Halak stopped 23 shots as he made his fifth start in six games since debuting in the NHL. He lost his second straight after three consecutive wins.
Notes: Straka sat out due to a shoulder injury sustained Saturday . . . Montreal hadn't lost on the road to the Rangers since March 11, 2002 . . . Hossa scored two goals against Columbus on Jan. 16, 2006. His three points were a career best.