For a long stretch of the first half of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked lost and confused.
Those days appear to be behind them.
Exactly halfway through the season, the Lightning will look to continue their recent roll when they take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Prior to winning three of their last four games, the Lightning lacked energy and offense in winning just four of 20 (4-12-4), scoring just 32 goals in that span.
But, as evidenced by their crisp effort in a 4-1 win over defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey on Friday, the Lightning appear to be more like the squad that scored 26 goals during a 7-0-1 start to the season.
“That’s a good sign for us when we get better the further the game goes,” Modin said. “It’s the way we played at the start of the season. Every time we get a chance to get that feeling back, we know we’re on the right track.”
Recently voted a starter in next month’s All-Star game, speedy winger Martin St. Louis has been the embodiment of the Lightning’s recent surge, recording four goals and four assists in the last four games.
St. Louis got his own team record in Friday’s win, scoring a fifth short-handed goal for the Lightning.
“It’s two games and we’re building on this,” St. Louis said. “To make the playoffs, you have to have some winning streaks. You can’t make the playoffs playing .500.”
The Rangers are one game above the break-even mark and two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to Saturday’s 3-2 win over the archrival Islanders.
“We’ve been trying all year to get these guys to concentrate on every game like it’s an Islander game,” coach and general manager Glen Sather said.
Eric Lindros’ goal and assist sparked a three-goal barrage in a 1:38 span of the first period, and then the Rangers hung on.
Rangers defenseman Greg de Vries’ consecutive games streak ended at 223, the NHL’s sixth-longest active run. He is expected to be out four to six weeks because of a sprained knee.