The last time the Tampa Bay Lightning tangled with the New York Rangers, it was a 6-3 Tampa Bay win. Their eleventh straight, amidst a stretch the Bolts were playing their best hockey consistently. Since that impressive sixteen game point streak, the Bolts are still a solid 6-4, but would like to regain their incredible consistency.
After dropping their first game back from the All star break, the Lightning responded with a 1-0 shootout victory over the red hot Islanders. Andrei Vasilevskiy was terrific in a 36 save shutout. Now, in a taxing back-to-back scenario, the Lightning looked to channel that dominant brand of hockey for a win against those same Rangers, without Brayden Point. The Rangers had won four of their last five games.
In the early moments of the game, the Rangers did a great job populating the neutral zone and shutting down the Lightning’s aggressive defense and restrict zone entry. As soon as the Bolts found some fluidity through the middle, Yanni Gourde made New York pay for it. Ryan McDonagh activated from the point and Gourde banged home a rebound to give the Lightning the game’s first lead.
As the first period wore on, it became clear neither team was giving up ice easily between the blue lines. Both found it difficult to sustain any serious stints of pressure in the offensive zone. There weren’t many grade-A chances on either side, or chances alone for that matter. With just over half a minute to go in what was a very impressive penalty kill to end the first, Tampa Bay still led 1-0 on the strength of Gourde’s goal.
A Wonderful Moment
For much of the opening moments of the second period, the game was still very tight-checking one with little room to operate. That is until Tampa Bay’s speed began to wear down New York and create some odd man rushes. They busted in 4-on-2 and Erik Cernak did the honours, rifling his first career NHL goal past Lundqvist. The Bolts’ bench was exuberant for the 21 year-old as he made it 2-0 Lightning.
Shot for Shot
The Rangers gave Steven Stamkos far too much room just moments later on another odd-man rush. The Lightning captain wired it past Henrik Lundqvist for his 28th of the season. After Tampa Bay struck twice in just less than four minutes, the Rangers responded with around four minutes to skate in the middle frame. Mats Zuccarello blasted an equally high-calibre shot that Domingue couldn’t squeeze to get New York on the board.
Coming Up Clutch
The shots were 13-9 in favour of the Lightning in a solid period for Tampa Bay. Despite his team carrying the play for the majority of the frame, Louis Domingue was huge when he needed to be. After the Zuccarello goal, the blue shirts started to generate some serious momentum for the first time in the game. Domingue made a key stop on Brady Skjei and followed up by denying Zuccarello of a second on the rebound. He held down the fort through a mini surge by New York to keep it 3-1 Bolts after two.
The Bolts had a slow moving start to the final period and the Rangers made them pay. They opened up with a 4-1 shot advantage and didn’t look back. Mats Zuccarello continued to be electric and drew a penalty on Braydon Coburn, who took him down behind the net for the trip. Lundqvist caught the Lightning on a change, and Mika Zibanejad set up Kevin Hayes for a one timer from the right circle, which he blasted home. The power play goal got the Rangers within one with over 13 minutes remaining.
Electrifying Third Period
The Rangers really turned things on in the third period, after struggling to create quality looks in the opening two. They outshot Tampa Bay 16-4. Domingue came up just as huge as his volume increased. He had a massive third period, with a show stopping save on Chris Kreider, and a game clinching save in the final seconds on a slapper from Kevin Shattenkirk. Though they really held on for dear life in the dwindling moments, the Lightning escaped with a sweep of a New York back-to-back, and a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers.
Our Three Stars of the Game
- Louis Domingue- 31 saves, and an incredible third period to guide the Lightning to victory.
- Steven Stamkos- A leader steps up in the absence of a key player like Brayden Point, and that’s exactly what Stamkos did, with the game winning goal
- Mats Zuccarello- Zuccarello was a real spark plug for the Rangers’ offense all night, and drew what could have been a key trip on Dan Girardi late.
The Bolts will return home to take on the Vegas Golden Knights, Tuesday night at 7:30ET.
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