With their 13-game point streak now over, the New York Rangers must avoid going 0-for-Florida to move up in the Eastern Conference.
Following their first regulation loss in five weeks, the Rangers (37-25-9) wrap up their three-game road trip on Saturday night as they meet the resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning for the final time in the regular season.
New York fell 3-2 at Florida on Friday, when Henrik Lundqvist allowed Olli Jokinen's power-play goal 7:12 into the third period. The Rangers had gone 10-0-3 since their last regulation loss, 4-1 to defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim on Feb. 7.
It was New York's longest run without losing in regulation since going 12-0-0 with two ties from Oct. 24-Nov. 24, 1993 - the season the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup.
"The streak was secondary. We know the position we are in (in the tight playoff race), and the good thing is we come right back (Saturday) to try and get two points," Scott Gomez told the Rangers' official Web site. "We're still battling for a playoff spot, so we start all over again (Saturday)."
Gomez and Daniel Girardi scored and Sean Avery had two assists for New York, which starts play sixth in the East but is just five points behind conference-leading New Jersey, which plays earlier Saturday at Colorado. Following this game, the Rangers will play their final 10 against Atlantic Division foes, including three each versus New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Though they'll be facing one of the league's weakest teams on Saturday, the Rangers have had little success recently at the St. Pete Times Forum. New York is 3-5-1 in its last nine games there.
"We have to understand what we want to do to beat another good hockey team, a team that has virtually nothing to lose by coming out and playing hard," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "And if we don't match that level of intensity and commitment, we will repeat what we did (Friday) night."
Three seasons after winning the Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay (28-35-8) appears headed to a last-place finish in 2007-08. The Lightning have 64 points, fewest in the East and only two more than league-worst Los Angeles.
Still, the Lightning are in position for their first three-game winning streak since mid-January. After setting a season high for goals in an 8-4 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday, the Lightning defeated Boston 3-1 on Thursday.
"It could have been very easy to just kind of call it a year and not work hard," said the Lightning's Dan Boyle. "We know our playoff chances are over but we want to prove to ourselves and the guys who are going to be here next year we're not going to accept another losing season again."
Three players acquired from Dallas at last month's trading deadline all factored in the latest win.
Mike Smith stopped 35 shots to snap a personal four-game losing streak, Jeff Halpern opened the scoring with a power-play goal and Jussi Jokinen assisted on Andreas Karlsson's tally that gave Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead in the second period. Smith, Halpern and Jokinen were acquired on Feb. 26 from the Stars for Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards and backup goaltender Johan Holmqvist.
Halpern has been a pleasant surprise so far for his new team. He's picked up three goals and three assists in a three-game point streak, and has five goals and five assists in 10 games since the trade. Playing in Dallas this season, he had only 10 goals and 14 assists in 64 games.
Vincent Lecavalier closed the scoring against the Bruins with his team-high 37th goal in his 700th NHL game. Lecavalier has five goals in his last three games, but just one goal and one assist in three games versus the Rangers this season.