Mathieu Garon did everything in his power on Thursday night to shut down the New York Rangers.
It just didn’t translate that way on the scoreboard following 60 minutes of play.
Garon made 38 saves, and at times was brilliant, but the individual performance just wasn’t enough to get the Tampa Bay Lightning back on the winning track following a 4-1 defeat to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Martin St. Louis had the only goal for Tampa Bay, which has now dropped four of its past five, including three straight.
Steven Stamkos earned an assist on the goal, extending his league-best points streak to eight games.
New York, meanwhile, snapped a four-game losing skid.
Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Marc Staal each had goals for the Rangers, which also received 24 saves from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
Rick Nash, in his first game back from injury, had an assist and added a late third-period goal to cap the game’s scoring with 1:33 to go in regulation.
Ryan McDonagh registered two assists.
“It’s hard to explain,” Garon said of the team’s recent struggles. “We wanted to have a good start tonight but they had some good chances that they capitalized on early in the game.”
Hagelin put the Rangers out to an early 1-0 lead at 7:23 of the first after firing a slap shot that found some room underneath the arm of Garon.
The Lightning were in pretty good position as the Rangers entered the zone, but defenseman Keith Aulie lost an edge and slid into the boards, allowing Hagelin to glide toward the net and unleash a slapshot that beat Garon to his blocker side.
Stepan then doubled the lead just 1:17 later with his fourth of the year, as he collected a rebound off an initial shot from Ryan Callahan and buried it past the Lightning netminder nearly halfway through the opening frame.
“We needed to play desperate,” Bolts defenseman Victor Hedman said. “But I really thought Matty [Garon] kept us in there, especially in the first.”
That was evident, considering the Rangers held a 20-3 advantage in shots through the opening period alone.
After 60 minutes, the Lightning found themselves outshot by New York 42-25.
But Garon did come through at key times, especially down the stretch, to keep the contest relatively close until New York pulled away in the third period.
“If it wasn’t for him, it could have been 6-0,” Stamkos said.
Tampa Bay cut the deficit in half when St. Louis redirected Eric Brewer’s shot with 3:51 in the first, appearing to catch Lundqvist off guard.
“To get one back like that weathered the storm,” Lightning assistant coach Dan Lacroix. “They came out extremely hard, and our execution level has been awful as of late, so we knew we had to be better in a lot of departments.”
After the Lightning penalty killers got off to a strong start in that area, staving off three opposing power plays, including two in succession, Staal’s power-play goal with 3:52 to go in the middle frame ended the streak to make it 3-1 in favor of the Rangers.
That’s how it stayed until the waning minutes of the regulation, when Nash’s goal sealed the win for the Rangers.
Nash finished the night with a game-high 12 shots on goal, 11 of which were turned aside by Garon.
The Lightning made a strong push in the third period, but Lundqvist was there to make a few key saves. His toughest came on a stop of Stamkos on a 2-on-1 rush. St. Louis fed the puck to Stamkos for a one-timer, but Lundqvist pushed across to deny the chance with his stick and blocker.
New York swept the season series of the Lightning, winning each of the three games, which only highlighted the Bolts’ recent struggles.
“Enough talking,” Stamkos said. “We need action.”