The Tampa Bay Lightning could not have asked for a better way to start the New Year. Just ask Nate Thompson.
Thompson tied a personal career-high assist total and added the game-winning goal just 19 seconds into overtime, as the Lightning defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 on Saturday night.
The Lightning forward scored his sixth of the season from in-close past Rangers net minder Henrik Lundqvist. His performance came in support of rookie goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, who made 34 saves to earn his second consecutive win in as many career starts.
Desjardins, perfect through nearly three periods, had his shutout bid spoiled in the game’s final minute of regulation on New York’s lone goal by Marian Gaborik.
“Its tough whenever you give up a goal in the last minute like that,” Thompson said. “But we just had to reload and refocus, and remember that there was still hockey left to play. We felt like we had to get that win and we did that.”
Gaborik erased a one-goal deficit at 19:14 in the third period after taking a centering feed from Dan Girardi in the slot. He beat the Tampa Bay goaltender through the five-hole to send the contest into the extra session. The right wing entered with just two goals in his last 10 games.
Tampa Bay has won eight of its last 10, including three straight over the Rangers this season.
Dana Tyrell also had a goal for the Lightning, tied with Washington atop the Southeast Division standings with 51 points apiece. The Tampa Bay rookie opened scoring at 13:03 in the first with a backhand that rolled off the toe of his stick before finding its way through Lundqvist’s legs.
“I thought that goals was going to hold,” Tampa Bay Head Coach Guy Boucher said. “I thought we were playing well in our zone and I thought in the third period we came back. It was a real tight playoff-type game, so I thought it would hold.”
Lundqvist ended the night turning back 31 of 33 shots.
The Rangers have now split a pair of wins and losses in their last four games, with both the defeats coming at the hands of the Lightning.
“Are we satisfied?” Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella said. “I hope not. This is just going to get tougher and tougher, and this was a tough way to lose. We’ll take the point and continue to try and get better.”
Desjardins earned the win in his NHL debut on Thursday night, beating Montreal 4-1. The 25-year-old rookie allowed a goal 58 seconds into the game on the first shot he faced against the Canadiens, and then stopped 27 shots after that.
He stopped an in-close shot by Marc Staal during a 2-on-1 rush in the second. He also made a glove save on Brandon Prust’s drive from the left circle with 12:25 left in the third.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Thompson added. “I am speechless. For him to make the saves he did tonight, at key moments, you can’t say enough about it. He is coming in and getting the opportunity to play, and he is seizing it. He is making big stop after big stop, like a veteran.”
Tyrell also recorded an assist on the game-deciding score, giving him a career-high two points in his 39th game played as a rookie this season.
“We deserved that game and our guys battled,” Desjardins said. “That was just the kind of game you want, especially home games like that. It was a big one for us, and we won it.”
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.