|5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)20:00 ETNaN:� BRT, February 2, 2019
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Attendance: 17,468
Lightning hope to still have Rangers' number
Nearly a year ago, New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton penned a letter to season ticket holders, stating the team was going to start a rebuild by trading core players.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the biggest beneficiaries as they acquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from New York.
Heading into Saturday's visit to Madison Square Garden, Tampa Bay has won three straight meetings over the Rangers since the deal, achieving those victories rather decisively.
NHL-leading Tampa Bay (38-11-2) has outscored the Rangers 18-9 in those games, although neither of the traded players has done much. The last meeting was a 6-3 home win on Dec. 10 when Steven Stamkos scored twice on the power play and recorded a hat trick.
The win over the Rangers was part of an eight-game winning streak and a stretch of 18 wins in 20 games.
Since the last game of the 20-game hot streak, Tampa Bay has split its last six games while scoring 14 goals. The Lightning avoided their second losing streak of the season with a 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Friday at Nassau Coliseum when Victor Hedman scored the lone goal in the shootout. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 36 saves and three more in the shootout.
"The one thing, I think we left some of our goal-scoring touch at the break," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "It was two teams that played very responsible tonight. When they broke down, the goalies made the saves. For a 0-0 game, it sure was a pretty exciting one and fun to watch."
Those performances helped the Lightning rebound from Wednesday's 4-2 loss, when they trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins by three goals within the first eight minutes.
The Lightning are hoping some of their scorers can get going. Nikita Kucherov, whose 79 points lead the team, has not scored in a season-high six straight games, while Brayden Point has one goal in his last six games.
When the Rangers allowed six consecutive goals in the first meeting, it was part of a lengthy tailspin that dropped them significantly behind in the playoff race.
New York (22-21-7) enters the game with four wins in its last five games -- and five wins in seven games -- since an ugly five-game losing streak from Jan. 2-10. The Rangers rebounded from Tuesday's 1-0 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers by rallying from an early two-goal deficit in a 4-3 win at New Jersey on Thursday.
Mika Zibanejad recorded New York's first hat trick of the season and tied a career high with four points. Zibanejad has eight goals and 13 points in his last seven games. Mats Zuccarello, who is a candidate to be traded by the deadline, tied a career best with three assists. He has four goals and 12 points in his last six games.
"We've seen the chemistry before and we saw it again tonight," Zibanejad said. "It's a fun line to play with. We're playing I would say fun hockey."
The top line of Chris Kreider, Zibanejad and Zuccarello has compiled 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in the past six games.
"They certainly were dominant tonight and they have been for a while," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "All three of those guys are playing on an extremely high level. It's nice to see."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 2, 2019
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