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New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

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GAME: New York Rangers (25-33-7-5) at Tampa Bay Lightning (40-17-8-5).

TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning will look to improve the NHL's best record and push their unbeaten streak to 11 when they host the lowly New York Rangers.

The Lightning have shown no signs of slowing down, pushing their league-best point total to 93 with a 4-2 win over Carolina on Wednesday night.

Dave Andreychuk and Ruslan Fedotenko scored less than a minute apart early in the first period to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead as Tampa Bay improved to 9-0-1 during its run. The Lightning have earned a point in 17 straight games (13-0-2-2).

The Lightning got back on the winning track after their eight-game winning streak ended Monday in a 1-1 tie at Western Conference-leading Detroit. On Wednesday, they took advantage of a disorganized Hurricanes club playing its first game since the trade of captain Ron Francis to Toronto at the trade deadline.

"We didn't play well, plain and simple," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "But the good news is our third line kicks in an important goal, our goaltending was good, we scored a power-play goal, our penalty killing was good."

Carolina did manage to tie the game on goals by Jesse Boulerice and Radim Vrbata, but Dan Boyle restored the Lightning's lead at 6:43 of the third period. Tim Taylor added an empty-net goal with 47 seconds left.

The Lightning got another outstanding performance in goal, as John Grahame made 31 saves in his first action since Feb. 20. Tampa Bay was outshot 33-16 for the game.

The Lightning, who haven't lost at the St. Pete Times Forum since Jan. 19, will be opening a four-game homestand against the Rangers. New York is playing out the schedule after dumping the majority of its key veterans before the trade deadline.

New York has been off since Tuesday, when it defeated Atlanta 2-0 on the road with a stripped-down lineup. Mike Dunham made 25 saves for his second shutout of the season, both of which came against the Thrashers, and Jaromir Jagr and Bobby Holik scored for the Rangers, winners of two of their last three.

Dunham stopped 12 shots in the second period. He helped the Rangers earn a 0-0 tie with the Thrashers on Oct. 16.

New York will be looking to improve to 2-0 on a three-game trip that concludes Saturday against the Florida Panthers.

STANDINGS (through March 10): Rangers - 62 points, 4th place, 28 PB, Atlantic Division. Lightning - 93 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jagr, 27 goals, 40 assists and 67 points; Dale Purinton, 109 PIM. Lightning - Martin St. Louis, 32 goals, 49 assists and 81 points; Chris Dingman, 136 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 10): Rangers - Power play: 14.2 percent (40 for 281), 25th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (274 for 339), 28th. Lightning - Power play: 16.7 percent (49 for 294), 12th (tied). Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (198 for 239), 11th.

GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Dunham (16-24-6, 2 SO, 2.91 GAA); Jamie McLennan (12-9-3, 4, 2.20). Lightning - Nikolai Khabibulin (24-15-7, 3, 2.32); Grahame (16-7-1, 1, 1.86).

SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 11; Lightning 2-1, OT. At New York, Jassen Cullimore scored 2:03 into overtime to lift Tampa Bay.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 12-16-4-1 on the road; Lightning - 19-7-4-2 at home.


Associated Press
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