Although the Tampa Bay Lightning’s offense remains the talk of the league, the effort of goalie Andrei Vasilevksiy has helped keep the Bolts at the top of the standings. Unfortunately for the Lightning, he couldn’t do it all by himself against the New York Rangers.
J.T. Miller‘s goal 1:19 into overtime sealed the deal on a 2-1 victory for the Rangers (5-7-2) at Amalie Arena, capping off an emotional see-saw affair. The Lightning (10-2-2) found themselves out-shot 35-28 at the end of the night, but if you were watching this game, there’s no denying who controlled the majority of the game. Tampa Bay continually surrendered high-quality scoring chances the entire night, only to watch Vasilevskiy’s Herculean effort keep his team in this game and steal a point. On the other end, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist didn’t have to make as many spectacular saves, but he compiled several timely stops that kept the game close.
While Vasilevskiy was standing on his head, the rest of the Lightning’s effort didn’t match up in the first period.
Much like their game against Anaheim last Saturday, Tampa Bay found themselves unable to generate much speed through the neutral zone. Unlike that game, however, the Lightning were a step slower than the Rangers, allowing multiple Grade-A scoring chances.
Vasilevskiy made quality saves on Michael Grabner (who also hit a post), as well as against J.T. Miller, who took a pass on a 2-on-1 and cut to the net, only to be denied by the Lightning goalie. Tampa Bay didn’t get their first real scoring chance until Brayden Point took a pass in the high slot, only to see his shot knocked away by Lundqvist. Kevin Shattenkirk went to the penalty box for holding, putting the Bolts on the power play. Following an empty-handed effort on the power play, Shattenkirk jumped out of the box and got a breakaway. However, Vasilevskiy was up to the task once again.
Unfortunately for the Lightning, the amount of scoring chances they were giving up caught up to them. Brady Skjei, Mika Zibanejad, and Chris Kreider found themselves on a 3-on-1 late in the period. Following a sequence of passes between the trio, Kreider’s shot squeezed past Vasilevskiy to put the Rangers up 1-0 with 1:26 left on the clock.
Despite a sloppy opening 20 minutes, the Lightning regrouped and provided a much better effort in the second period.
Tampa Bay took the ice for the second with an energy level and an extra jump in their step. Stamkos and Kucherov found their stride, nearly hitting the back of the net on a few occasions. Most notable of those was a Kucherov one-timer right off a faceoff win by Stamkos. There was also more fight and passion in the Lightning’s play, as they engaged in a couple of scrums. One of those scrums led to Ryan Callahan and Rangers defenseman Steven Kampfer dropping the gloves. New York also had a goal by Michael Grabner waived off due to a high stick.
Tampa Bay finally scored the equalizer while shorthanded at the 11:00 mark. With Vlad Namestnikov in the box for cross checking, Point took the puck in the neutral zone. While getting hauled down from behind and drawing a delayed penalty, Point dished the puck to Victor Hedman. Hedman and Yanni Gourde skated in on an odd-man rush, with Hedman feathering a beautiful pass to Gourde. Gourde’s shot found the back of the net, knotting the game up 1-1. Although the ice was heavily tilted in Tampa Bay’s favor in the final minutes of the period, both teams had good looks. After finding themselves out-shot 13-8 in the opening period, the Bolts out-shot the Rangers 16-12 in the second.
Early in the final period, the emotion from that began to bubble up in the second period finally boiled over.
Just over three minutes in, Alex Killorn scored what appeared to be the go-ahead goal. However, the officials immediately waived it off due to goaltender interference on Gabriel Dumont. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper challenged the call, but was unsuccessful, and the game remained knotted up 1-1. Before the ensuing faceoff, a Ranger player squired Killorn with water from New York’s bench. Killorn turned around and took a jab at their bench with his stick. Killorn received a slashing penalty, touching off a melee where Kampfer and J.T. Brown dropped the gloves.
The Rangers got a power play out of it, but couldn’t take advantage. The Bolts had their fair share of chances in the ensuing few minutes, but the final half of the period wasn’t pretty. Tampa Bay committed multiple turnovers and bad pinches in the offensive zone. As a result, they found themselves scrambling to get back into position. Time and time again, Vasilevskiy found a way to bail his team out and keep the game tied up. One of the most egregious plays was a terrible turnover by Jake Dotchin, leading to a scoring chance for Ryan McDonagh. Mikhail Sergachev also turned it over, leading to a chance for Grabner. A poorly-timed pinch by Hedman led to Jimmy Vesey nearly putting the Rangers ahead.
Ultimately, it was Miller’s goal early in 3-on-3 OT that clinched it. He powered to the Lightning net, skated around all three Lightning defenders, and roofed one past Vasilevskiy to give the Rangers the win.
The Lightning look to regroup on Saturday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena. Puck drops at 7 pm.
Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star: J.T. Miller – Scored the game-winning goal in OT.
2nd Star: Henrik Lundqvist – While he didn’t see as many Grade-A chances as Vasilevskiy, he finished with 27 saves. Several of them were of the timely variety that kept the Lightning from taking the lead.
1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Made 33 saves and many of them 10-bell stops. Without his effort, the Lightning would’ve been blown out.
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