Pittsburgh Penguins' Jan Rutta defends New York Rangers' Chris Kreider...

Pittsburgh Penguins' Jan Rutta defends New York Rangers' Chris Kreider on Sunday. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

The games are coming fast and furious for the Rangers, four of them in the next six days and 16 in the next 31, beginning with Tuesday’s matchup with the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.

They are close to being whole now, as defenseman Ryan Lindgren’s return from an upper-body injury appears imminent. Lindgren returned to practice last week wearing a non-contact jersey before practicing fully on Friday.

He didn’t play in either of the back-to-back games over the weekend, but when he does return, he surely will be a boost to a team that needs help. Since going 22-5-2 from Dec. 5 to Feb. 17, the Rangers have gone 4-6-1 in their last 11 games.

“We haven’t played well, we admit to that,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said after Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. “But we’re still winning hockey games . . . and [Sunday] we still got a point against a real good team over there.

“We’ve got to be better. We know that. I think everybody in that room knows it. And they got a good sign in the third period, so we’ll move on from there, and hopefully, the next game at home [Tuesday], we’ll play 60 minutes like that.’’

In all three games on their just-concluded 2-0-1 road trip, the Rangers struggled for much of the first two periods but played a strong third, with Sunday’s game being the best effort. They trailed 2-1 to start the period but outshot Pittsburgh 12-8, outchanced the Penguins 11-3 (according to Natural Stat Trick) and tied the score on Chris Kreider’s goal to force overtime.

“I think ideally, we’d like to play the same way we played in the third [Sunday] for the whole game,’’ forward Barclay Goodrow said. “I think that’s where we want to get to, and just overall playing a more consistent 60 minutes.”

Goodrow believed the Rangers had found something in their third-period surges on the trip. It had to be a good sign that goalie Igor Shesterkin, who had been mediocre since the All-Star break, looked a lot more like the goalie he was last season, when he was the runaway winner of the Vezina Trophy. Shesterkin was strong in the third period, overtime and the shootout in Thursday’s win in Montreal and allowed one goal on 33 shots in Saturday’s overtime win in Buffalo.

The fourth line, with Goodrow in the middle and Jimmy Vesey and Tyler Motte on the wings, was the Rangers’ best in Pittsburgh, which is another good sign. While the Rangers are confident that newcomer Patrick Kane eventually will start feeling comfortable with his new teammates, having a fourth line that can contribute will be a key to any kind of long playoff run.

“They were real good,” Gallant said of the fourth line. “They did their job. They got in tight, scored that one goal [by Goodrow] and they forechecked well, so I liked the way they played.

“Before [Sunday], it doesn’t seem like there’s been four lines going. That’s what we need. It’s one line a night, or two lines.’’

If the Rangers can get four lines contributing, a fully healthy defense corps, and Shesterkin back to making unbelievable saves on a routine basis, it could carry them a long way.

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