Lightning Look To Take Down Rangers At Forum
TAMPA, Fla. – Prior to embarking on a three-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning will make a one-game stop at the St. Pete Times on Saturday night. Dropping the puck on March 15 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE), the Lightning will host the New York Rangers for the second and final time this season.
Tampa Bay enters their match-up following a pair of wins against the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins. In the most recent contest, Mike Smith
made 35 saves to backstop the Lightning to a 3-1 win at Boston. Andreas Karlsson scored the winning goal, while Jeff Halpern and Vincent Lecavalier
connected to round out the scoring.
Converting the only Lightning power play in the contest, Halpern opened the scoring at 7:41 with his 15th goal of the season. After collecting the puck at the left point, Filip Kuba skated to the faceoff circle before firing a shot towards the net. Halpern got a piece of the shot, redirecting it to the five-hole against goaltender Tim Thomas.
The goal was Halpern’s fifth in a Lightning uniform, giving the center 10 points in nine games with his new club. Halpern has posted goals in three consecutive games, his longest scoring streak of the season, which ties the forward’s career-high.
After stopping 15 shots in the first period, Smith added another 12 saves in the second while Karlsson extended the Lightning lead.
Notching his second goal of the season, Karlsson collected an outlet pass from Jussi Jokinen before streaking into the offensive zone on a breakaway. As Karlsson skated down the slot, Thomas stretched across his crease but was unable to get a glove on the backhand shot.
Within minutes Smith denied Phil Kessel on a breakaway, making a pad save on a backhanded attempt at the front of the net. Through the game Smith helped kill off three Boston penalties, with Chuck Kobasew scoring the lone Bruins goal at 7:57 of the third.
Through seven games with Tampa Bay, Smith has recorded a 2.73 goals-against average and has allowed two or less goals in three of those contests.
Lecavalier added an empty-net goal with eight seconds remaining in the game to seal the win. The Lightning center has recorded five goals through his previous three games.
New York enters Saturday’s contest coming off their first regulation loss in their previous 14 games. Playing the front end of back-to-back games, the Rangers dropped a 3-2 decision to the Florida Panthers.
The Rangers out-shot the Panthers 34-30 in the contest, but Tomas Vokoun made 32 saves to lead his club to the win.
Rostislav Olesz opened the scoring at 12:49 of the first period, but Daniel Girardi scored less than three minutes later to tie the game at one. The clubs exchanged a second pair of goals in the middle frame, with Scott Gomez recording his 16th goal of the season only 28 seconds into the period.
Gomez leads the Rangers with 51 assists and 61 points this season. The New York center had been held scoreless in his previous two games after posting a five-game point streak in which he recorded eight points (two goals, six assists).
Despite the score, Jassen Cullimore responded to tie the game at two with less than eight minutes remaining in the period. At 7:12 of the third period, Olli Jokinen scored his team-leading 31st goal to seal the Florida victory.
Brendan Shanahan led all skaters with eight shots, but was limited to one assist in the contest. Shanahan leads the Rangers with 22 goals this season.
Between the pipes for New York, Lundqvist made 27 saves but dropped his first decision in 12 starts. Lundqvist is tied for the league lead with nine shutouts this season.
When Lundqvist last faced the Lightning he stopped only 21 shots as his team fell, 5-3. Chris Gratton led Tampa Bay with two goals and one assist and Martin St. Louis
added two points (one goal, on assist) in the contest.
Although Jaromir Jagr opened the scoring at 3:02 of the first, the Lightning scored four answered goals through the middle of the second period.
Doug Janik tied the game at one less than three minutes after Jagr’s goal, posting his first goal of the season. Gratton added his first goal of the night less than nine minutes into the contest before extending the Lightning lead, 3-1, at 4:23 of the second.
Through 53 career games, Gratton has recorded 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) against the Rangers for his highest total against any NHL club.
The fourth Tampa Bay goal came at 10:51 of the middle frame when Vaclav Prospal connected for his 19th goal of the season. Scott Gomez and Michal Rozsival added power play goals to bring the Rangers within one, but St. Louis closed out the scoring with an empty-netter.
Karri Ramo posted the win for the Lightning, stopping 31 of 34 shots overall, including 26 saves in the final two periods.
Ramo is 3-2-1 through his previous six starts, including a .908 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average.
Through three games the Rangers hold a 2-1-0 series lead. Jagr and Roszival are tied for the team lead with three points each against the Lightning. Jagr has recorded two goals and one assist while Roszival has scored once and added two helpers this season.
Lecavalier has recorded 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) through 33 career games against New York, including one goal and one assist this season.
In franchise history the Lightning hold a 14-13-1 edge against the Rangers, plus three ties, on home ice. Tampa Bay has won four of the previous seven meetings between the clubs at the St. Pete Times Forum.