Lightning at Rangers game preview
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: Sun Sports
It wasn’t long ago that it seemed like the New York Rangers could be headed for a goaltending controversy.
Henrik Lundqvist is making sure that’s not even a consideration anymore.
The Rangers will try to ride the red-hot Lundqvist to a season-best fourth straight win Tuesday night against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, who could get goalie Ben Bishop back.
As one of the world’s best goaltenders, Lundqvist usually plays most games for the Rangers with his backup getting few starts. Cam Talbot, though, outplayed the 2011-12 Vezina Trophy winner early in the season and coach Alain Vigneault gave the rookie netminder 12 starts in a 32-game span.
Lundqvist wasn’t sharp with a pedestrian .905 save percentage in his first 31 games, but appears to have found his groove lately. He’s started the past four games, posting a 1.97 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage while leading the Rangers (24-20-3) to a 3-0-1 mark.
He finished with 37 saves in Sunday’s 4-1 victory over Philadelphia after he was spotted a 3-0 lead in the first 9:24 of the opening period.
"I got tested early, and you gain confidence when you make a couple of good saves," Lundqvist said. "I’m happy with the way I am playing.
"It definitely helps when we play the way we play in front of me and make good decisions all over the ice."
Vigneault confirmed after practice Monday that Lundqvist would make his eighth start in nine games Tuesday.
"He was a little bit off, but right now I think he’s back on track," Vigneault told the team’s official website. "He’s making the key saves at the right time that are permitting us to stay in games, come back in games, and to win games."
Sunday’s victory improved the Rangers to 8-2-1 in their last 11 and moved them into a tie with Washington for second place in the Metropolitan Division. They are 4-0-1 in the last five at home, allowing nine goals during that span.
Rick Nash also has keyed the hot stretch, scoring four goals in four games after tallying once in his previous 11 contests. He has scored seven times in his last nine against Tampa Bay.
Madison Square Garden will be the final stop on a three-game trip for the Lightning (27-15-4), who followed Saturday’s 6-3 win over Philadelphia with a 3-2 loss at Columbus on Monday. Alex Killorn and Victor Hedman staked Tampa Bay to a 2-1 lead in the second period, but the Blue Jackets scored two power-play goals in the third, the last with 2:38 remaining.
"Ultimately, we had way too many penalties," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It turned into a special-teams game, and their special teams were better than ours."
Defenseman Matt Carle set up Killorn’s goal to extend his career-best point and assist streaks to seven.
The Lightning should be eager to get Bishop back after going 2-2-0 in the four games he missed due to a sprained right wrist. Bishop is 8-0-2 with a 1.54 GAA in his last 11 starts, suffering his last regulation loss Dec. 3.
He has recorded shutouts in each of his last two meetings with the Rangers and is 4-0-0 with a .970 save percentage in four career appearances against them.
The Rangers are 6-1-2 in the last nine meetings with the Lightning, winning three in a row at home. That lone regulation loss was a 5-0 defeat at Tampa on Nov. 25, but New York claimed a 4-3 victory there Dec. 29.