The back-to-back wins over the skidding Flyers are in the rearview mirror. With the Lightning, which decked the Rangers on Nov. 17 and 26, returning to New York on Monday night, the road ahead is far bumpier.
"I think we have to prove it Monday," said Henrik Lundqvist, who will get the start in goal for the Rangers. "Playing Tampa and playing Philly are two different games. It's one of the hottest teams and a team that is struggling a little bit right now. Obviously, when you get going against a team like Philly, I think you put yourself in a good spot just by working really hard and making it really tough for them. But Tampa, they are rolling right now, so they are a bigger challenge. Coming Monday, it's going to be a big test for us."
The Rangers are three games over .500 (11-8-4) for the first time this season. The Lightning (16-6-2) has won three in a row and on Saturday welcomed the return of defenseman Victor Hedman, who missed 18 games with a broken finger. Even with Hedman unavailable, the Rangers lost, 5-1, at the Garden and 4-3 in Tampa.
"That's two times they beat us, and it for sure will be in the back of our mind," said center Derick Brassard, who scored twice against the Flyers on Saturday. "They play a different way than a lot of teams -- really fast, a lot of puck possession. Their whole team, the way they pressure your defensemen, I think it's hard. We just have to find a way to play our best game."
Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop has had a terrific start (14-3-2, 2.27 GAA and .917 save percentage). The 6-7 netminder is unbeaten (7-0-0) against the Rangers in his short career.
"It's obviously going to take a lot more from everyone," said Lundqvist (9-6-3, 2.57, .911), who has allowed only two goals in his last two starts. "Every player on that team right now, they look confident and they're making big plays. So you have to respect that skill. But I hope, after the first two games, the third one will be our best against them."
Tampa Bay has offensive potential in all four lines, but in large part, the Rangers need to corral the Lightning's big three -- the line of Steven Stamkos, former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn, who have amassed 61 points. Callahan has four goals in two games against the Rangers.
"Their first line is really good and they can, a lot of times, be the difference," Lundqvist said, "so you have to be aware every time they're on the ice."
Notes & quotes: Chris Kreider is expected to return after missing Saturday's game because of the death of his grandfather . . . Tanner Glass (mumps) is not expected to play . . . This will be the Rangers' 16th home game. They've played only eight on the road.