Like cornerstones during construction, the Rangers hope the last four periods they've played can serve as a foundation for an identity that will carry them through the season.
A four-game losing streak and injuries had battered their confidence as they dropped to 11th place in the Eastern Conference. But after an impressive 4-1 victory over the Lightning on Thursday night, Ryan Callahan discussed using the desperate third-period rally against the Jets in a 4-3 loss, and the energetic start and finish against Tampa Bay, as a base.
"You wanted to make sure you come out strong off the third period against Winnipeg and build on that," the team's captain said. "We jumped on Tampa early and got off to a lead, which we needed at home."
Home is where the Rangers, who ended with a 6-4-2 mark in February, will play the next two, starting against Buffalo Sunday, followed by Philadelphia on Tuesday. They then play nine of the next 13 on the road, where they are 2-4-1. So the time to make hay at the Garden -- where the Rangers are 7-4-1 -- is now.
"I'm not going to predict how good we are or how bad we are. We're just going to stay within ourselves," coach John Tortorella said. "We're going to try and crawl here."
Henrik Lundqvist, who is expected to start in net for the 17th time this season, played three of the four games against goaltender Ryan Miller and the Sabres last season, winning 1-0 in a shootout in Buffalo and 3-2 in overtime at MSG before losing 4-1 at home. The struggling Sabres, who dismissed coach Lindy Ruff on Feb. 20 after 15 years behind the bench, are 8-12-1 and host New Jersey Saturday afternoon.
"We've got to get streaky," said Rick Nash, who returned to the ice after an 11-day absence with a 12-shot, goal-and-assist performance. "I think if we just keep building wins off tonight [Thursday] and carry it into the next one, we'll be fine."
The Rangers (9-8-2) have won consecutive games only twice -- once in January, and three in a row in February. The Sabres are 5-6 on the road, but the Rangers cannot take winning as a given.
"Nothing's automatic," Brian Boyle said. "We need to keep trying to get better."