NEW YORK -- A loss to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night dropped the Tampa Bay Lightning out of first place in the Atlantic Division for the first time in more than five months and immediately left the Lightning focused on a rematch with the Bruins next week.
But the best way for the Lighting to ensure that game remains pivotal is to begin snapping out of their week-long funk Friday night, when it visits the New York Rangers in the Rangers' home finale at Madison Square Garden.
The Lightning and Rangers enter Friday mired in losing streaks. Tampa Bay fell for the third straight game Thursday, when it lost 4-2 to the host Bruins. Visiting New York suffered a second consecutive loss Wednesday, when it was beaten by the Washington Capitals 3-2 in overtime.
The three-game skid has come at an inopportune time for the Lightning (51-22-4), who fell out of first place in the Atlantic Division for the first time since Oct. 19. The Bruins, who took a one-point lead in the race for the Atlantic crown and the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference, visit Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
The Lightning have been outscored 10-4 during the losing streak but took some solace in climbing back into Thursday's game after falling behind 2-0 in the first period. The Bruins did not close out the victory until Brad Marchand scored an empty-netter in the final minute of the third period.
"We know we play them again," said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who scored a goal. "We were more focused on our game and how we played. I think we have two good periods, not three. We need to be better in the first, so we don't dig ourselves a two-goal hole. Those last two periods were something to build on. We get right back into it tomorrow."