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Lightning-Rangers Preview @NHL

The New York Rangers have held a lead in all 15 games they've played this season and lead the Eastern Conference with 10 victories.

Now, they just need to be able to shut out opponents in the third period.

The Rangers look to close out strongly as they try to avoid their first three-game skid of the season on Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.

In a 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the Rangers (10-4-1) allowed the visitors to score two short-handed goals in the third, but their previous loss on Saturday was more deflating. With a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes, the Rangers gave up five goals in a little more than five minutes to Toronto in a 5-2 road defeat.

In two other defeats, Dallas notched a third-period goal for a 2-1 win on Oct. 20, and Buffalo scored three unanswered goals - one in the third - for a 3-1 victory five days earlier.

"There's segments in the game where we have to be sharper. It happens to be in the third period in the last two games," Rangers forward Markus Naslund said. "We know that we have won without playing perfect games. It's caught up to us in the end as those mistakes have gotten into the net. We have to change that."

After scoring power-play goals in five straight games, the Rangers have gone 0-for-6 in the last two. At 13.5 percent, New York ranks ahead of only Florida for last in power-play conversion rate.

The Lightning (4-3-4) aren't much better, tied for 22nd at 14.9 percent, and that could prove a hindrance against one of the league's best teams on the penalty kill.

The Rangers have allowed one man-advantage goal in the last 23 chances over the last six games. New York has surrendered five power-play tallies in 59 opportunities this season.

New York and Tampa Bay opened the season just over a month ago with two games in the Czech Republic, and the Rangers came away with a pair of 2-1 wins. That helped New York get off to a 5-0-0 start while Tampa Bay went 0-2-3 in its first five.

Since returning from Europe, the Lightning have lost just once in regulation, and Tampa Bay had its three-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday with a 4-3 loss at New Jersey. Jussi Jokinen scored twice, but he and Vaclav Prospal were denied in the shootout round.

"We battled back in the last two games," Jokinen said. "That's the sign of a good hockey team. I think the first and third periods were very good hockey for us."

The game likely will feature two of the top goaltenders in the league. The Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist has a 2.00 goals-against average while Tampa Bay's Mike Smith sports a 2.16 GAA as both rank in the league's top five in that category.

Lundqvist has an 8-4-2 mark versus the Lightning with a 1.85 GAA, allowing 10 goals in the last six meetings. Smith is 2-2-0 against New York with a 2.02 GAA.

Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier is on a five-game point streak with three goals and four assists, but he has only one goal and two assists in his last seven games against the Rangers.

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