The New York Rangers hope to build on an emotional comeback victory when they start a two-game trip to the Sunshine State on Thursday against the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning. The Rangers rallied from a two-goal deficit by scoring four straight in the third period on Tuesday to top Vegas 6-4 and end a tumultuous month of October on a promising note.
“It’s definitely going to be a big challenge for us, but I think the way we played in the third period - with that type of mindset, desperation and urgency - is definitely something that will help us if we can play it for 60 minutes,” New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist told reporters. “Being behind a little bit here, we need a good road trip to get back in the race.” It won’t be easy to get points on Thursday against the Lightning, who have lost just twice in regulation this season and possess the top two scorers in the league in captain Steven Stamkos (24 points) and Nikita Kucherov (13 goals). Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to vie for his 10th straight victory, which would break the franchise record he currently shares with John Grahame. “I’ve been impressed with how’s he’s managing the game and how he’s able to elevate his game in key moments, making that save for us,” Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean told the Tampa Bay Times.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE RANGERS (4-7-2): Embattled coach Alain Vigneault finally may have found a first line to lead the way as Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich stepped up to produce three goals and three assists against Vegas. “They were a force out there using their speed and skill,” Vigneault told reporters, “and it has to continue.” Lundqvist owns a 3-4-2 record and .898 save percentage this season but has been solid against the Lightning during his career, going 19-13-6 with a 2.38 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (10-2-1): One of the concerns before the season was secondary scoring behind Stamkos (599 career games) and Kucherov, but several players have stepped up and seven scored in Monday’s 8-5 victory at Florida. “We have a lot of depth up front,” Stamkos told reporters. “That’s been one of our strong suits the last couple of years. We’ll continue to get scoring up and down the lineup. It’s huge in today’s game.” Brayden Point has been one of the key contributors, registering six goals and eight assists in 13 games while centering the second line.
1. Tampa Bay D Anton Stralman, a former Ranger, has notched five points and entered Wednesday leading all NHL blue-liners with a plus-12 rating.
2. New York RW Michael Grabner has recorded three of his four goals in the last three contests and tops the team at plus-4.
3. The Rangers had won four straight meetings with the Lightning before losing the most recent contest.
PREDICTION: Lightning 4, Rangers 3