The New York Rangers were an early-season surprise with their strong play. Now it remains to be seen how they deal with adversity.
New York will try to avoid extending their losing streak to a season-high four games when they meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time this season at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are 0-4-1 in their last five home games against the Lightning, scoring just nine goals.
For the second game in a row, Rangers goaltender Kevin Weekes has struggled. He was minutes away from his first shutout of the season Tuesday, but allowed goals 16 seconds apart to Brian Gionta and Alexander Mogilny in the third period of a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
"We were six minutes away from a good win against a good team," said Weekes, who allowed two goals in 19 seconds Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche. "They were hungry. ... We almost had a victory. It's a tough pill to swallow."
New York has managed just four goals during its current skid. The Rangers also have just 46 goals in 17 home games.
Jaromir Jagr is tied with Simon Gagne of the Philadelphia Flyers for second in the league with 23 goals, but only six have been scored on home ice. Jagr has just two goals in his last 10 games overall.
"You can't win scoring one goal," said Jagr. "The way we played was not good. I'm worried that we don't score goals. I'm not worried about anything else."
Five of Jagr's 27 career goals against Tampa Bay have been game-winners.
Tampa Bay also is struggling as it enters this contest. The Lightning lost Tuesday for the third time in four games with a 6-4 setback to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal each had a goal and an assist, but Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella is looking for more consistency from all his players.
"Some guys are trending upward, some guys are trending downward," he said. "We just haven't been able to get everybody going at the same time."
Tampa Bay, however, has scored a power-play goal in a season-high nine straight games.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 20): Lightning - 39 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Southeast Division. Rangers - 44 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Fredrik Modin, 16 goals; Brad Richards
, 27 assists; Prospal, 39 points; Pavel Kubina, 54 PIM. Rangers - Jagr, 23 goals, 28 assists and 51 points; Michael Nylander, Michal Rozsival and Darius Kasparaitis, 42 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 20): Lightning - Power play: 15.7 percent (33 for 210), 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (145 for 174), 10th. Rangers - Power play: 15.4 percent (32 for 207), 22nd. Penalty killing: 87.7 percent (201 for 229), 2nd.
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - John Grahame (14-10-1, 1 SO, 2.86 GAA); Sean Burke (4-2-2, 0, 2.99). Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist
(12-5-3, 1, 2.11); Weekes (8-6-1, 0, 2.76).
SEASON SERIES: Rangers, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 10; Rangers, 5-2. At Tampa, Fla., Dominic Moore scored twice during a four-goal third period for New York. St. Louis and Dan Boyle scored for the Lightning.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 8-7-2 on the road; Rangers - 10-5-2 at home.
- Associated Press