The New York Rangers' postseason hopes appeared to be done when they earned just eight points in their first 10 games coming out of the Olympic break.
Picking up seven in their last four has them thinking a bit differently.
They figure to have a good shot at two more Friday night when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning.
New York (34-32-10) is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference but has climbed within four points of the final postseason berth, and will go into Friday with a game in hand on the teams currently sixth through eighth.
The Rangers are halfway through a six-game road trip that has provided some tense moments. They came from behind to beat New Jersey 4-3 in a shootout March 25, blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 overtime loss at Toronto on Saturday and rallied from a 2-0 deficit to top the Islanders 4-3 on Tuesday.
Defenseman Marc Staal's third-period goal -- his sixth of the season -- wound up being the difference.
"We need wins as much as possible and if that's what it takes, I'm going to do that," Staal said about adding offense from the blue line. "Lately I've found more opportunity to jump in the rush. Our forwards are making room at there."
Marian Gaborik matched his assist total by netting his 40th goal of the season Tuesday, and perhaps the star free agent acquisition is destined for more points against Tampa Bay (31-34-12). Gaborik recorded his second career four-assist game in the Rangers' 8-2 rout of the Lightning on Jan. 19.
Staal had a goal and an assist.
Gaborik missed the Rangers' 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Feb. 14 with a knee injury, but Erik Christensen scored twice in his absence.
The Lightning won the only meeting in central Florida, 5-1 on Nov. 27, but that's their lone victory in the past seven matchups overall.
Tampa Bay has been reduced to playing spoiler but heads head home from a four-game road trip with some confidence after Wednesday's visit to Pittsburgh. Steven Stamkos scored his 46th goal in a 2-0 win over the Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
"It's something that's obviously on your mind, you get asked about it a lot, so it would definitely be nice," Stamkos said of being grouped with the NHL's two biggest stars. "We got five games left and whatever happens, happens."
Stamkos has two goals and three assists against the Rangers this season.
Former Lightning winger Vinny Prospal has two goals and two assists in the three meetings with his former team, but New York's biggest advantage versus Tampa Bay may be Henrik Lundqvist.
The Swedish Olympian is 9-3-0 with a 1.90 goals-against average in his last 12 starts in the series.