Lightning Edged By Rangers, 3-2
Battle Back To Force Shootout
The Lightning fought back in the third period to take the Eastern Conference leader to overtime tonight, but that’s where it ended, as the Rangers closed out the season series with a 3-2 win.
New York got the first shot on goal 15 seconds after the puck dropped to start the game, and that was just the opening salvo as the visitors continued to fire away on the Lightning net , compiling 11 shots in the first period to only five for the Lightning. Despite outshooting Tampa Bay, the Rangers couldn’t solve Mike Smith
, who threw in some great saves, including turning away a point blank blast from Ranger Forward Chris Drury at the 8:35 mark.
While the Rangers were shooting, the Lightning were busy hitting; bashing the Rangers a total of 12 times, two of which led to further altercations as Steven Stamkos
got in his first NHL fight with Nikolai Zherdev and later Evengy Artyukhin battled with Colton Orr, after Orr skated cross ice to blindside him.
A total of eight penalties were called in the first stanza, but neither team could convert on their power play chances as the period came to a scoreless conclusion.
The Rangers drew first blood on the scoreboard with a goal at 2:40 of the second period when Markus Naslund collected a rebound of a Michal Rozsival shot to Smith’s left and made a nifty move around the Bolt netminder for the goal.
The Lightning got right back into the game when Ryan Malone
scored on a power play, 1:29 seconds later. With Dan Fritsche in the penalty box for hooking, Malone slid the puck under Henrik Lundqvist to tie the score at 1-1. Vincent Lecavalier
and Steve Eminger were credited with the assists. The goal was Malone’s fifth of the season.
At 6:23 Lightning forward David Koci and Colton Orr engaged in some prolonged fisticuffs during which Koci gave more than he got, except in the penalty minutes where both players received the mandatory five for fighting.
The Lightning pressed the action in the Ranger zone for most of the second period but were unable to get the go-ahead goal.
The parade to the penalty box continued and it finally stung the Lightning when Malone was called for hooking at 16:58. Markus Naslund tipped a shot from Michal Rozsival at the blueline past Smith to give the Rangers the lead at 17:57 of the period.
As the second period ended, the Lightning went to the locker room down 2-1, but they had added 15 shots to their total, which stood at 20 for the game.
Both teams had good opportunities to score early in the final period. Just over a minute into the stanza, Ranger forward Ryan Callahan almost got free for a breakaway but Smith skated out to slap the puck away. Callahan collected the puck again and fired from below the right faceoff circle. Paul Ranger, trailing the play, dived and blocked the shot with his body.
“Ranger is just incredible at getting back into plays,” interim Coach Rick Tocchet said after the game. “His hustle and intensity are terrific.”
The action was end to end for the rest of the period until the Lightning, with a flair for the dramatic, tied the score at two goals each with 50 seconds left to play and Smith on the bench for the extra attacker. Mark Recchi managed to tip the puck past Lundqvist for his fifth goal of the season. The tying score was set up by Martin St. Louis
and Andrej Meszaros.
The four-on-four overtime was the seventh extra period of the 11 games this season in the St. Pete Times Forum, and it almost ended quickly when Markus Naslund broke in alone on Smith 1:30 into the five minute period. Smith held his ground and made the save. Although most of the action was in the Tampa Bay end, the Rangers couldn’t score and the game went to the shootout.
Shootouts have not been kind to the Lightning so far this season, and tonight was no exception. After Radim Vrbata’s backhand attempt was stopped by Lundqvist, Nashlund slipped the puck through Smith’s legs to gain the advantage. When Jussi Jokinen missed for the Lightning and Zherdev beat Smith the contest was over, 3-2. The loss dropped Tampa Bay to 1 for 6 in shootouts this season.
“There are positives to take from this game,” Steve Eminger said. “We battled back against one of the top teams in the league.”
For tonight, that, and one point earned, would have to be enough.
|Three star selections