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Start Spreading the News, Lightning Win Streak Is Over

After the extended break, the Tampa Bay Lightning traveled to New York to meet the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. The first of a Big Apple back to back as they will meet the Islanders tomorrow night. The Rangers are atop the Metropolitan Division with 65 points while the Lightning are in third place in the Atlantic Division with 59 points. Tampa is riding a three game winning streak and have won eight of their last nine games. The Rangers won their game on Monday but have won two and lost two in their last four games. These two teams appear to be playoff bound so tonight should make for an exciting game.

The good news for the Lightning is the return of two stalwarts on defense. Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev return to the lineup after sitting out with injuries. Cernak has missed the last seven games and Sergachev the last 17 games. Andrei Vasilevskiy starts in net for the Lightning while Jim Quick is between the pipes for the Rangers. It’s a rarity witnessing two former Stanley Cup winning goaltenders face off in a regular season game. Rarer still when both goalies have won multiple Cups as Quick and Vasilevskiy have.

Brand New Start of It

Right from the opening puck drop, it was apparent that the Lightning came to play. Over the last few years, the Lightning don’t seem to come off extended breaks setting the hockey world on fire. Their play in the first few minutes of the first period was proof they were looking to change that “slow off the break” reputation. 

The Lightning were enjoying some extended zone time in front of Quick as a result of some good forechecking and timely offensive pinches by the defensemen. Unfortunately, it created a couple of good scoring chances but no goals. During the second half of the period, the Rangers worked on some offensive zone time for themselves. Same result, some good scoring chances and they pinged the post without scoring a goal. After 20 minutes, the game remained a scoreless tie.

Right Through the Heart of It

So far in the game, the goaltenders are the story. Though both defenses are giving no quarter to the opposing team. The Lightning came into the game as the fifth highest scoring team in the league and the Rangers were tied for tenth. To that extent, the scoreless tie in the first was a bit of a surprise. Just past the first minute, Steven Stamkos broke away alone on Quick. Stamkos had a Ranger defenseman draped over him like a cheap suit and only was able to get a backhanded shot off which Quick stopped with his right pad.

Immediately after that the Rangers scooted down towards Vasilevskiy. Jimmy Vesey coming down on Vasilevskiy’s left was looking to create a two on one odd man rush. Cernak slid backwards on his belly and took away Vesey’s pass. That left him with only a backhand shot as he was at the goal line. Vasilevskiy appeared to be anticipating the pass and that meant the top shelf above his left shoulder was open. Vesey got the top shelf where Grandma keeps the cookies. Opening the scoring, Vesey’s goal gave the Rangers the 1-0 lead. 

Five minutes after the Vesey goal, Sergachev made a hit on Alex Lafreniere who wasn’t just going to take the hit without giving one. As LaFreniere made his reverse hit, Sergachev went down awkwardly on his left leg. It looked bad and Sergachev had to be stretchered off the ice. His night was over. 

The Sergachev injury seemed to take a little bit of steam from the Lightning though they did pick up their play towards the end of the period. With a few ticks away from the last two minutes of the period, a loose puck from the corner found the stick of Rangers fourth line center Jonny Brodzinski who wasted no time to put the puck past Vasilevskiy to make the score 2-0, Rangers.

I Want To Be A Part Of It

After killing off the remnants of a second period penalty, the Lightning had their work cut out for them. Down two with less than 20 minutes to go in regulation. Both teams were playing to get the next goal. Just after the five minute mark, Brandon Hagel took a pass from Cernak in the low slot and wristed the puck past Quick to bring the Lightning to within one goal. Still, 2-1, Rangers but a little over 14 minutes left in the game.

Without a doubt the Lightning were making a valiant effort. Spurred on by Hagel’s goal, it was the lift they needed. The thing standing in their way virtually every time down the ice was the Rangers defense. They were blocking shots like crazy. 

As the minutes ticked off the board, the score remained the same. With just under five minutes, the Lightning went on their first power play of the night. Victor Hedman banged the post on a shot but the Rangers penalty killing units held firm. 

Down to less than two minutes, Jon Cooper pulled Vasilevskiy for the extra skater. There was a goal scored but it was an empty net goal by Vesey. Final score was 3-1, Rangers. We should learn the extent of the Sergachev injury in the next few days. 

Three Stars 

  1. Jimmy Vesey – 2 goals 
  2. Jim Quick – 19 saves on 20 shots for a .950 save percentage
  3. Brandon Hagel- 1 goal 

What’s Next 

No rest for the weary as the Lightning are back at it tomorrow night against the Islanders. Game starts at 8:00 pm.


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