NEW YORK - Beginning their first three-game road trip of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning traveled to the tri-state area to face off against the New York Rangers on Monday night. Despite a strong goaltending effort by Johan Holmqvist the Lightning were unable to fight back from a late deficit, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Rangers.
Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr led the effort for his team posting one goal and one assist in the contest.
Holmqvist got his glove working early in the contest, denying Michal Rozsival on the power play. Roszival tested the Lightning netminder by firing a wide open slap shot from high in the zone, but Holmqvist made the glove save on the attempt.
Despite the early save, Nigel Dawes opened the scoring 7:40 into the contest. Although Paul Mara took a wide shot from the blue line, Dawes redirected the puck from the left faceoff circle to sneak the puck past Holmqvist for the score.
Tampa Bay responded with a chance minutes later as Vaclav Prospal looked to notch a power play marker. As Prospal skated deep into the zone, Martin St. Louis passed the puck out from behind the net. Prospal fired a quick shot on Henrik Lundqvist, but the Rangers goalies covered the shot at the right post.
New York continued putting pressure on the Lightning towards the end of the first period with Dawes getting a chance down low. As Jagr fired a hard angle shot, forward Scott Gomez crashed into Holmqvist in the crease. After players fought for possession behind the net, Dawes gained control of the puck and fired a quick shot on Holmqvist. The rebound dropped into the crease before bouncing out to Vincent Lecavalier who cleared the puck on the play.
With the Rangers skating into the second period with a 1-0 lead, Prospal once again looked to tie the game. Four minutes into the frame, Lecavalier faked a shot high in the zone and opted to pass the puck to Prospal at the top of the slot. Prospal tried to lift the puck and go high, but Lundqvist got a piece of the shot for the save.
Minutes later Jagr and Lecavalier exchanged breakaway attempts before Lecavalier was awarded a penalty shot.
Skating into the zone on an outlet pass by Marc Staal, Jagr charged in on the Lightning net. As Jagr looked to move to the backhand, Holmqvist reached out to make a poke save on the shot.
As the play turned back up the ice, Lecavalier gained control of the puck for his own breakaway on Lundqvist. As a Rangers defender pulled at him on the shot attempt, Lecavalier was given his first penalty shot of the season. On the play, the Lightning center faked a kick as he skated in before moving to the backhand to slide the puck through the five-hole on Lundqvist.
The goal was Lecavalier’s sixth of the season, giving him goals in consecutive games.
Once again Holmqvist came up big during the second period, stopped a number of strong Rangers chances. Midway through the frame Holmqvist denied former Lightning defenseman Paul Mara after he jumped up into the play to take a pass from Brandon Dubinski. After Holmqvist stopped the initial shot, the rebound attempt banged off the crossbar.
With less than five minutes remaining in the frame, the Lightning killed off 56 seconds of a 5-on-3 Rangers man advantage. In addition to making a glove save on a shot by Jagr from the top of the slot, Holmqvist denied Scott Gomez on a one-timer attempt. Taking a pass through the crease, Gomez fired a shot from the left of Holmqvist but the Tampa Bay netminder got his left pad out for the save.
Minutes later Ryan Hollweg carried the puck down the right side before cutting to the net for a shot. As Hollweg tried to move from the backhand to the forehand, Holmqvist closed the pads to shut down the five-hole attempt.
Early in the third period Brad Richards made a huge play to keep Blair Betts from getting a breakaway attempt. As Betts skated down the left side boards Richards closed in from behind. Richards reached around the Rangers center, cleanly poking the puck away before Betts could post a shot on goal.
Despite the effort, the Lightning were unable to keep New York off the board with the man advantage. Scoring twice on the power play in the second half of the period, the Rangers climbed to a two-goal lead.
One-timing a shot off a blue line pass by Roszival, Jagr connected from the top of the right faceoff circle for his third goal of the season. Less than three minutes later, Brendan Shanahan tipped pass by Gomez behind Holmqvist to close out the scoring.
Down by a pair of goals, St. Louis looked to bring the Lightning within one as he streaked in on Lundqvist with two Rangers defenders trailing close behind. Firing a wrist shot from the bottom of the slot, St. Louis was held off the board as Lundqvist covered the attempt.
Falling to 2-3-0 against his former team, Holmqvist made 32 saves as the Rangers out-shot the Lightning 35-22. Holmqvist dropped to 5-2-1 on the season with the decision.
Defenseman Dan Boyle made his season debut in the contest, returning from the injury to see 11:38 in ice time. Boyle led the Lightning in scoring against the Rangers last season with three goals and three assists.
Playing in his 500th career game, Richards saw his six-game point-scoring streak come to a close. The Lightning center is tied with Prospal for the team lead with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) through 10 games this season. During the recent streak Richards posted three goals and ten total points.
Tampa Bay continues their three-game road trip on Wednesday, October 31 (7:00p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) against the New Jersey Devils. Facing off against the Devils for the first time this season, the Lightning will take on New Jersey in their second game at the new Prudential Center in Newark. The game marks the first of a pair of back-to-back contests for Tampa Bay, who will close out their road trip against the New York Islanders on Thursday night.