TAMPA, Fla. - The Rangers have gone to the well so many times, you have to wonder when it's going to run dry.

Of their last nine playoff elimination games, the Blueshirts have won eight. Number 10 is Tuesday night here against the Lightning, which leads the Rangers 3-2 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.

If the Rangers win, the 11th elimination game will be back in New York on Friday.

Experience breeds confidence, the Rangers say, but this hill is steep.

In Game 5 on Sunday night, with a massive defensive effort that seemed to surprise the Rangers, the Lightning squeezed the Presidents' Trophy winners in a 2-0 triumph, leaving them vowing to produce more shots and continue being "a tough out."

"They did block a lot of lanes and a lot of shots, but we had opportunities to get it to the net and we didn't. I'm not sure why," coach Alain Vigneault said Monday. "A lot of times it's not that initial shot but the second opportunity, and they did a tremendous job of taking that away."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

At times, the Rangers looked pass first, a tactic that they might want to minimize. "Shooting pucks to the net quick -- maybe it hits something, deflects off someone -- just causes them to turn and react and start causing some panic on their end," Marc Staal said. "When you start throwing pucks to the net, it causes confusion, and we could have done a better job last game."

The Blueshirts came back from 3-1 against the Penguins last year and from 3-1 against the Capitals in the second round this spring. "We're a tough out, and we're going to give our best effort," Staal said. "We know the feeling of having the opportunity to close it out at home. We know none of them want to come back to MSG for a Game 7."

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper agreed, but more because of the travel. "I think everybody in our locker room would love to not have to get on a plane again,'' he said. "It's not so much that we're scared of a Game 7. We've gone through those situations in these playoffs. I just don't want to get on a plane for a while. That's part of the grind; people are just constantly traveling."

The Rangers were the best road team in the NHL during the regular season. "If we set the tempo, we give ourselves a good chance to win," Staal said. "We've been a confident road team all year. We enjoy the challenge of going into a road rink and winning a game."

Tampa Bay's Brian Boyle, a former Ranger, has seen the resiliency from the other side. "It's going to be obviously a tough game,'' he said. "Last game was a tough game. We have to understand the momentum and all of that, and it starts fresh. We also need to understand when you're a desperate team, you're a dangerous team."

As dangerous as the Rangers may be, there's no room for error. Said Carl Hagelin, "We've got to play the best game we've had so far in the playoffs."

Notes & quotes: Mats Zuccarello, out since March 24 after being struck in the head with a shot, traveled with the Rangers but will not play . . . The Rangers watched a private screening of "Entourage," a movie that hasn't been released yet, before their 5-1 win in Game 4 here, so what were the movie plans Monday night? Said Staal, "Entourage 2."