The Tampa Bay Lightning made themselves right at home in their first game back on the road.
Martin St. Louis had a goal and Vincent Lecavalier added the game-winner on a third-period power play, as the Lightning completed a four-game season series sweep of the New York Rangers with a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.
“At the beginning of the year we were great at closing out close games,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “That’s what games in the playoffs are going to be like, and that’s what we want.”
With the Rangers’ Dan Girardi and Brian Boyle both serving time in the box for back-to-back penalties, Lecavalier scored the go-ahead goal on a 5-on-3 power play at 2:40 in the third to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 22 of 23 shots, including a flurry of chances in the game’s final two minutes for Tampa Bay, who won its third straight game, and its first on the road since Jan. 21 following a NHL record-tying 12-game home stand.
The Lightning improved to 21-3-7 in one-goal games this season. They also beat the New Jersey Devils by the same score of 2-1 Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
“We certainly gutted this one out,” Lecavalier added. “We stuck to our plan, got that go-ahead goal, and then shut them down. We played well as a team.”
Brandon Prust scored the Rangers' lone goal while shorthanded in the second period. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 17 saves.
Sunday’s loss was New York’s first in its last three games. It had won four of the previous six prior to facing the Lightning.
St. Louis made it 1-0 after going back and forth with Steve Downie at the right circle. He completed an odd-man rush to beat Lundqvist through the five hole at 5:04 and extended the league’s second-longest active point streak to nine games with his fourth goal in his last three contests.
“I think we started pretty good,” St. Louis said. “I wasn’t even aiming for the five hole, I was just trying to put the puck on net. It was a pretty heavy shot.”
The Rangers had a hard time creating chances during the first 20 minutes. Tampa Bay play solid in the neutral zone and didn’t allow New York its second shot on goal until there was a minute left to play in the first period.
Brandon Dubinsky gave the Rangers their first real opportunity when he nearly tied the game with a shot that rattled off the post during a scramble near Roloson's net.
Tampa Bay has not allowed a first-period goal in four consecutive games. It padded its lead in the Southeast Division to five points over the Washington Capitals and moved within five as well of the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning are 4-1-2 in their last seven games.
Prust’s shorthanded goal at 9:42 of the second tied things up, as he converted a breakaway after skating one-on-one through the slot against Roloson.
“They were very aggressive,” Lightning defenseman Brett Clark said. “Both of their special teams units were very solid.”
Lecavalier netted the eventual game-winning tally on the power play to open the third. He took a pass from St. Louis and one-timed a slap shot from the right faceoff circle high above the shoulder of the Lundqvist.
“We know from now on, every game on the road is going to be a tight game,” Cark added. “When you have your chance, you have to bury the team and not let them back in it.”
Lecavalier has six power-play goals and 12 points in his last nine games. His goal with the man advantage was the lone bright spot for a power play unit that went 1-for-6 on the day with the extra skater.
“I’ve felt good the last 15 or 20 games,” Lecavalier said. “I think a lot of it has to do with buying into the system, and it helps when everyone on the team has been playing great.”
Newly acquired defenseman Bryan McCabe, brought in from the Florida Panthers to help boost the NHL’s 21st-ranked power play, didn’t have quite the immediate impact. The Rangers failed to convert on three power plays during the first period and finished the game 0-for-4 overall.
“For us, this is the last stretch,” Boucher said. “It’s all about the details now and what we want to do. We’ve worked all year to get here and now this is the time.”
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