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Lundqvist on a roll as Rangers host Lightning

by Brian Compton

LIGHTNING (27-15-4) at RANGERS (24-20-3)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-4-1; New York 7-2-1.

Season series: This is the third and final game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers. The Rangers avenged a 5-0 loss Nov. 25 by earning a 4-3 win against the Lightning on Dec. 29. Both games were played in Tampa Bay.

Big story: It appears Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has found his game. After a rather rough start to the season, Lundqvist was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week for the week ending Jan. 12. He started all four games the Rangers played and went 3-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.

Lundqvist enters the game Tuesday with an overall record of 15-16-3. He has a 2.68 GAA and .910 save percentage.

"There's still some work to be done here, but at least it's going in the right direction," Lundqvist said after practice Monday. "I realized a few weeks or maybe a month back that I'm not going to turn this around in one game or two games, that it's going to take a while and I have to take it step by step, work hard and, win or lose, at least I have to play my game and stick to it.

"It's been a new experience for me, no question. This stretch that I had early on was probably the first time I experienced [playing inconsistently] in 13 years. Of course you always have bad games. Even when you play well, you are going to have bad games, but this year has been different. You learn from it."

Team Scope:

Lightning: Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman scored 57 seconds apart in the second period, but Tampa Bay couldn't hold on in the third in a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Monday.

The Lightning killed off four Columbus power plays before the Blue Jackets converted twice with the man advantage in the third period. Anders Lindback made his fourth straight start in goal, but Ben Bishop was healthy enough to be the backup Monday and will get the start against New York. Bishop hasn't played since Jan. 5 due to a sprained wrist.

"We had an awful start and Lindy made some big time-time saves for us," coach Jon Cooper said. "We roared back in the second. We found our legs. We were OK in the third. Ultimately, we had way too many penalties. It turned into a special-teams game and theirs was better than ours."

Rangers: While Lundqvist has shined in recent outings, New York has received quality starts from each of its goaltenders to help its playoff push. Rookie Cam Talbot boasts a 1.66 GAA and .938 save percentage in 14 appearances this season, and has allowed one goal in three of his past four starts.

Furthermore, the Rangers are enjoying more success offensively. Four players scored in New York's 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, marking the fifth time in six games this month that the Rangers have scored at least three goals.

"We've been playing some pretty solid hockey for quite some time now," coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. "Maybe we weren't getting the results or the consistent result that we thought we should be getting the way we were playing … what's happening is both our goaltenders are playing real solid right now, and that reflects throughout the game and the games. They're making the right saves at the right time.

"We're scoring more right now. We're generating better quality chances. You look at [Sunday] night, our first two chances are in the back of their net. That gives you momentum. It gives you a little bit more confidence on the ice. We just took it from there."

Who's hot: Lightning center Tyler Johnson had an assist Monday to extend his point streak to three games. He has four goals and four assists in the past 10. … Rangers forward Chris Kreider has five points (two goals, three assists) in the past five games. Rick Nash has four goals in the past four.

Injury report: Tampa Bay is without center Steven Stamkos (broken tibia) and defensemen Sami Salo (lower body), Keith Aulie (hand), Brian Lee (knee) and Mattias Ohlund (knee). … The Rangers are missing forward Derek Dorsett (broken leg).

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