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Rangers Fall In Gretzky's Return

Wayne Gretzky is back, but the New York Rangers are slipping from the playoff race.

Colin Forbes scored two goals in his Tampa Bay debut as the Lightning damaged the New York Rangers' playoff hopes with a 6-3 victory Monday night.

Acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, Forbes snapped a 28-game goal-scoring drought in the first period and added a second-period shorthanded goal.

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  • The Rangers failed in their attempt to gain ground on the idle Boston Bruins, who hold a five-point lead with two games in hand in the battle for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.

    "We're not going to quit until we are mathematically eliminated," Rangers coach John Muckler said. "You can come up with a thousand reasons why we went out and got outplayed tonight. We lost as a team ... now we got to come out of it."

    Gretzky returned sooner than expected from a neck injury. It was believed the Rangers center, who missed 12 games, would be out until Saturday's game at Philadelphia or next Monday's contest with the New York Islanders.

    "It's a disappointing loss", Gretzky said. "It's imperative we start winning hockey games. We've got to win quite a few. We have a lot of big games ahead of us."

    Gretzky played 15 shifts totaling 11:15 and was held scoreless. He did not get a shot on goal and won six of 11 face-offs.

    "I felt all right," Gretzky said. "I'm going to work harder in practice and get back into the shape I was in four weeks ago."

    First-period goals coming 16 seconds apart by Forbes and Michael Nylander put the Lightning up 3-2.

    "I think everybody that gets traded wants to prove to the other team he can play," Forbes said. "It couldn't have gone any better."

    Chris Gratton had a power-play goal at 8:44 of the second period and Forbes added his shorthanded effort at 9:55.

    Robert Petrovicky made it 6-2 with 5:20 left in the third period.

    "No excuses," said Rangers left wing Adam Graves, who scored a third-period goal. "We just made some defensive mistakes we haven't made for a while. It wasn't one guy, it was all of us collectively."

    Forbes' first goal at 17:19 of the first period was followed by Nylander's rebound score at 17:35.

    The Rangers had taken a 2-1 lead when Kevin Stevens and Niklas Sundstrom scored 20 seconds apart.

    Stevens reached the 20-goal mark during a power play at 12:24. It was the sixth time in his NHL career he had scored 20 or more goals, and the first time since the left wing scored 41 goals with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993-94. Sundstrom put home a rebound at 12:44.

    The Lightning nearly scored again on the power-play with 54.3 seconds left, but New York goalie Dan Cloutier made a spectacular diving glove save on Vincent Lecavalier from pointblank range.

    Cloutier, who allowed five goals on 18 shots, was pulled with 8:18 left in the second period and replaced by Mike Richter.

    Tampa Bay's Mike Sillinger opened the scoring at 10:47 of the first period.

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