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Lightning Start Strong, Finish Wrong, Still Clinch Playoff Spot

The Tampa Bay Lightning entered Tuesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden still looking for a single point that would clinch them a playoff spot.  After the first period, Tampa Bay was in control and it looked like they were going to punch their ticket to the postseason.  Unfortunately, they were unable to hold an early lead, dropping a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers.  But thanks to Carolina’s 2-1 win in Boston earlier in the night, the Lightning will be in the playoffs for the third year in a row.

The Lightning started off tonight’s game fast, grabbing a 1-0 lead when Andrej Sustr scored the Bolts’ first goal at 2:42 of the first period.  Tampa Bay picked got their second goal at 6:07 of the opening period from Brian Boyle on a power play.  The Lightning would put up a total of 21 shots on goal in the first period while the Rangers would only get six.  The Rangers’ Tanner Glass was given a game misconduct for interference at 18:52 for an open ice shoulder check to the head of the Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov.  Namestnikov would leave the ice and not come back until the beginning of the second period.  This gave Tampa Bay a five-minute power that they did not capitalize on.  The Lightning were one-for-three on the power play in the first period while the Rangers did not convert on their only chance.

Both teams played well in the second period with the Rangers stepping up their game.  New York’s Derek Stepan scored the Rangers first goal on a power play at 16:55 of the second.  The Lightning would get opportunities to score with three more power chances, but were unable to take advantage of any of those chances.  With the Lightning only putting seven shots on goal this period and the Rangers getting 12, momentum was starting to shift.

The Rangers started the third period having to kill another Tampa Bay power play.  The Rangers really came out strong and took advantage of a Lightning team just trying to protect a 2-1 lead.  The Rangers had more speed and physicality in the third, totaling 32 hits to the Lightning’s 15.  The Bolts showed sparks of intensity, but just couldn’t strike.  The Rangers took advantage of their opportunities and scored two more goals to take a 3-2 lead.  The first of those two goals came at 2:33 off the stick of Stepan, giving him two on the night.  The final New York goal was scored by Chris Kreider at the 4:46 mark, giving them a lead they wouldn’t give up.  Despite the Lightning having 41 shots on goal, Henrik Lundqvist held strong with 39 saves and a save percentage of .951.  In the end, the

Rangers came away with the victory and the Lightning lost their second straight game.

Tampa Bay will be in New Jersey to face the Devils Thursday, April 7. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. EST.

THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1st Star:  Derek Stepan – Two goals and one assist

2nd Star:  Henrik Lundqvist – 39 saves, .951 save percentage

3rd Star:  Ondrej Palat – One assist

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