The Tampa Bay Lightning (30-26-8) continued the upward climb towards either a wild card spot or third place in the Atlantic Division. In their way, tonight was the New York Rangers (41-22-2) who are in the first night of a back to back as tomorrow they will head to Sunrise to face the Florida Panthers. With 17 games remaining every single point is needed if the Lightning hope to make it four consecutive years of playoff appearances. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy took a three game winning streak into the game.
Tonight’s first period felt more like a bar room brawl than it did a hockey game. Tanner Glass and Luke Witkowski went toe to toe for 1:47 right off a center ice face off. Then Paquette and a Ranger player got chippy in front of Antti Raanta. Brayden Point even got in on the action behind Andrei Vasilevskiy with Jimmy Vesey. All in all, the old joke “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out” kind of fits tonight’s game, at least in the first period. Neither team could convert on power play opportunities when given the chance. The recent playoff history between these teams appears to have the referees letting some things go, and allowing the teams to just play. Shots on goal at the end of the first favored the Rangers 12-9. Vasilevskiy bailed the Bolts out a few times, but the Lightning need more extended offensive zone time in the first period.
To start the second the Lightning struggled to get the puck out of their defensive zone. New York contained the Lightning in their own zone while stopping them numerous times in the neutral zone. Vasilevskiy saved a good opportunity by Rick Nash on a Lightning inopportune cross ice pass. Following a Chris Kreider penalty the Bolts were able to get some good pressure in the offensive zone, but unfortunately were unable to get a tally on the scoresheet during the power play. Since the power play though the Lightning continued buzzing Raanta while keeping the Rangers without a line change. Midway into the second period Tampa owned the shot advantage 23-17. During their extended time in the zone the Bolts were able to get six good shots on Raanta who was able to turn each one away. It didn’t feel like there was a lot of five on five hockey in the second. Much different than the first period as it seemed the referees called everything in the middle period. At times, there were a lot of overlapping four on four play. It seemed the Bolts lost a little of their steam in the offensive zone as the final minutes ticked off the clock. Through forty minutes the score remained tied 0-0.
Tampa started the third firing on all cylinders, and out-shooting the Rangers 8-2 through the first 10 minutes. Raanta and Vasilevskiy have been the sole reasons this game remained 0-0 through 50 minutes. Both goalies played extremely well through two periods, not giving either offense really a chance at the back of the net. Following the mid-way point of the period the Lightning didn’t get too much extended offensive zone time like they had early in the period. Both goalies fought and clawed for their teams. Neither Raanta nor Vasilevskiy were going to be denied the win in this game. With less than a minute remaining the Bolts had a good chance down low, but Kucherov launched the puck while up close over Raanta and the net.
Overtime started a little bit slow for the first few seconds, but that didn’t last long as both teams played fast and furious in the three on three overtime period. Mika Zibanejad gave the Rangers the win with 1:04 left in overtime.
Next Up: The Minnesota Wild come in to Tampa to face the Lightning Thursday night.
Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Antti Raanta – Stopped all 38 shots he faced, while making amazing highlight reel saves during tonight’s game.
2nd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Saved 33 of 34 shots on goal. After winning three straight since getting the starter job permanently, played extremely well all night.
3rd Star: Mika Zibanejad – Scored the lone goal in overtime, could have gave this to anyone really. Since he scored only goal he gets it.
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