They seized the opportunity, the game and seventh place all at once, these Black-and-Blueshirts did last night in a 3-2 shootout victory over the formidable Sharks in which Henrik Lundqvist was at his best and his team bounced right back to the work ethic and character that have marked the season.

"We expected to play this way after [Wednesday's 5-2 loss in Anaheim] because this is what we've been all year," said Marc Staal, who rebounded from a minus-three night against the Ducks with a monster of a game in which he got 30:31 of ice. "The room hasn't changed all year except for [Bryan McCabe] coming at the deadline, so we know who we are and know what we need to do to win.

"And myself, as someone who plays a lot of minutes and is counted on, I know I have to lead the way."

Lundqvist, who elevated his shootout record to 6-2 and the club's to 8-2 in the six-round 2-1 competition that Brandon Dubinsky won on a semi-fanned shot that slid under Antti Niemi's pad, was sharp throughout and exceptional in a third period in which the seventh-overall Sharks had the Blueshirts pinned, outshooting the visitors 12-3.

"Even though I didn't think I played bad, I was very disappointed after giving up five goals in that that game the other night," The King said. "I was mad.

"I tried to use that as motivation for this game," he said. "You can't say you played well and give up five goals. You can't say you played well but didn't win the game, not at this time of year. The last two days of practice, I was just getting ready for this game and this challenge against a very strong team."

The Rangers' third victory in their last four games vaulted the club into seventh place, two points ahead of the Sabres, who were beaten last night in Toronto, and propelled the team to a four point lead over the ninth-place Hurricanes, who were beaten at home by the Blue Jackets. The Rangers have 12 games remaining, Buffalo has 14 and Carolina has 13 to go in the season that ends in four weeks.