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Rangers Aim To Cool Hot Lightning

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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(AP) — One of the NHL’s rising stars is carrying the Tampa Bay Lightning with him.

Steven Stamkos looks to help his team win five straight for the first time in more than three years when it hosts the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

Stamkos scored his league-leading 20th goal to help the Lightning (12-7-2) beat Boston 3-1 on Monday. The 20-year-old center has 10 goals and five assists over his past nine contests, and has recorded a point in all but three of Tampa Bay’s games.

“There were some players who played a very solid game for us,” Stamkos told the team’s official website. “It was huge win versus a very good team in the Eastern Conference. We’re on a roll right now.”

That’s due mainly to Stamkos and linemate Martin St. Louis. Stamkos has five goals and two assists during the win streak while St. Louis has added a goal and seven assists, putting the Lightning on the verge of their first five-game run since Nov. 7-16, 2007.

The Lightning outshot the Bruins 36-27 and 31-15 through two periods. Tampa Bay also got a second straight strong game in net from Mike Smith, who has given up one goal in each of the last two contests.

“I think we’re playing with confidence and we’ve got a good thing going right now,” center Nate Thompson said. “It feels good, but we can’t accept that. We want more. We want to get better.”

Tampa Bay has certainly been getting better in the standings, moving within four points of Southeast Division-leading Washington.

The resurgent Lightning will be looking to turn their fortunes around against New York, which has dominated the series over the past few seasons. The Rangers won the last three meetings of 2009-10 by a combined 18-4, and have gone 10-3-0 in the last 13 matchups.

New York (12-9-1) won its second in a row Monday, 2-1 at home over Calgary. Brian Boyle and Dan Girardi scored second-period goals and backup Martin Biron made 31 saves – 15 in the final period – to give the Rangers their fifth win in seven games.

“It is a type of win where you are grinding,” coach John Tortorella said. “Most of the guys were giving everything they had, and to have the goalie play the way he did in the third period – you feel good about yourself with a win.”

Henrik Lundqvist, who has sat the last two games in favor of Biron after being pulled from a 5-1 loss at Colorado on Friday, is expected to start Wednesday.

“It certainly hasn’t changed our thinking in what we have in Lundqvist,” Tortorella said. “He is our number one guy.”

Lundqvist has certainly played that way in his last eight games versus Tampa Bay, going 7-1-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a shutout. That came in the teams’ last meeting April 2, a 5-0 win at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Rangers, opening a three-game road trip, are 7-3-0 away from Madison Square Garden.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said left wing Simon Gagne could return to the lineup Wednesday. Gagne has missed 15 consecutive games due to a neck injury.

Updated November 23, 2010
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pixy Rangers Aim To Cool Hot Lightning