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Back to Back Proves No Issue for Lightning

Photo credit: Alex Walworth Scrum Sports

In a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Rangers came to Amalie to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. A lot has changed for these two reigning conference finalists. Both teams have 43 points coming into tonight’s game. For the Lightning, that’s good enough for third place in the Atlantic Division. New York’s 43 puts them in the last wild card spot. The Lightning are playing in the second game of a back to back. Two points are up for grabs. Two of the game’s best goalies are in net. Former Vezina winner, Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning and last year’s Vezina winner, Igor Shersterkin for the Rangers.

Opening Bell

In addition to the Lightning, Vasilevskiy was also playing in a back to back game. After the gem last night he played against the Montreal Canadiens, Vasilevskiy was facing a big challenge tonight. In the first few minutes of the game, it looked as if the Lightning were coming off a week’s break. After the first seven and a half minutes, the Lightning were dominating the puck possession with a 7 to 1 lead in shots on goal. About midway through the initial period, longtime Lightning nemesis Vincent Trochek had a breakaway and Vasilevskiy stoned him. Though the Rangers didn’t score, they did seem to take back some of the momentum.

The visitors held onto that mojo as they scored the game’s first goal. Mika Zibanejad blasted a shot from the high slot past Vasilevskiy to put New York up 1-0. Assisting on the goal were Ryan Lindgren and Kaapo Kakko. In the five minutes after the Trochek breakaway, the Rangers out shot the Lightning 9 to 0. With a little more than five minutes left in the period, the Lightning went on the first power play chance of the game. The Ranger penalty killing units were up to snuff and kept the Lightning off the scoreboard.

Both teams had a couple of scoring chances in the waning minutes of the period but the intermission came with New York still up 1-0. Shots were about even as Tampa had 11 and New York had 12.

Middle Ground

Early in the second period it appeared that the Lightning had tied the game. The top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Brandon Hagel teamed up to score a goal. But upon further review, it was determined that a hand pass put the puck in the net and the goal was waved off. One would think that the negated goal might light up the Lightning players but it wasn’t to be. Over the next few minutes after losing their goal, the Lightning began to look and play sluggishly. Two penalties by Nick Perbix led to more offensive ice time for the Rangers. At times, it seemed as if the Lightning were holding on for dear life.

There were glimpses for the Lightning and my guess is they probably felt fortunate to be down by only one goal as the second period entered its second half. Anthoney Cirelli and Point had as good a scoring chance as the Lightning had all night. Shesterkin came up big on every challenge he faced maintaining his shutout. New York was desperate to build on their one goal lead but Vasilevskiy was matching Shesterkin save for save.

With a little more than five minutes left in the middle frame, Julien Gauthier was on a breakaway but was stopped cold by Vasilevskiy. Much like the first period, both teams had their shots on the opposing goalies but the period ended as it began, New York up 1-0.

Back to Back Results

Safe to say that the pressure was on the Lightning entering the final regulation period down by a goal.  Steven Stamkos shot a missile that beat Shesterkin but didn’t beat the crossbar. For the first few minutes it was all Lightning all the time. The home team was buzzing in the visitor’s zone. Finally, the dam broke. At 5:32 of the 3rd period, Point with assists from Kucherov and Stamkos scored the tying goal. The game is now all tied up at one.

Now, the ice was definitely tilted in the Lightning favor. Several really good scoring chances came their way. Kucherov hits a post, Hagel on a semi-breakaway was stopped by Shersterkin. And on we go. This game seems to have overtime or a shootout written all over it. The Lightning were the better team in this period but the Rangers had their opportunities to snatch the two points at stake. Ultimately, the team playing in the back to back game worked hard to get the one point for the tie. The third period had a playoff intensity primarily because of the goalies. They played their own version of anything you can do, I can do better. So, off we go to overtime tied at one.

Things looked bleak in the overtime as Victor Hedman was called for a tripping penalty two minutes into the extra time. The Lightning penalty killing units were stellar and kept the game tied. After the five minute overtime, the game was still tied and now it comes down to a shootout. With the way the two goalies are playing, the shootout could go on forever. In the shootout, Point and Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning and Artemi Panarin scored for the Rangers. Lightning win 2-1 in the shootout and more importantly, 2 – 1 in the game.

Three Stars

  1.  Andrei Vasilevskiy – Saved 45 of 46 shots
  2. Igor Shesterkin – Saved 39 of 40 shots
  3. Brayden Point – One of the hottest players in the league scored the tying goal in regulation and a shootout goal

What’s Next

The final game for 2022 is Saturday at 5:00 pm at Amalie Arena against the Arizona Coyotes.

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