Thursday night at Amalie Arena the Rangers’ nine-game winning streak came to a screeching halt, and it was the team that eliminated them from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring who played the role of streak-busters. The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Rangers 2-1 Thursday handing New York its first loss of any kind since October 24 and first in regulation since October 15.
The Rangers, who entered play looking to equal the franchise record with a tenth consecutive victory and with a 11-0-2 record in their last 13 matches, lost for only the third time in 19 games so far this season.
Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop improved to 9-0-0 in nine career regular season starts against the Rangers. He also blanked the Blueshirts twice in the Eastern Conference Final last spring, including a 2-0 win in the decisive Game Seven. Bishop made 20 saves Thursday, including a clutch penalty shot stop on Chris Kreider early in the third period.
Henrik Lundqvist was real good, too, but his 26-save effort was for naught in the defeat, as he was victimized on a pair of turnovers by his teammates in the loss.
The game-deciding goal was scored with the Rangers on the power play and with only 65 seconds remaining in regulation. Ryan McDonagh lost the puck at the Lightning blue line, and Tampa Bay took off on a 2-on-1 the other way. Valteri Filppula scored the shorthanded goal off a J.T. Brown feed with ex-Ranger Brian Boyle sitting in the penalty box.
Trailing 1-0, and with the clock winding down in the third period, the Rangers’ fourth line–which had been very effective all night long–cashed in on a Lightning turnover to tie the score with 6:17 left to play in regulation.
Jesper Fast provided a heavy forecheck on former Blueshirt Anton Stralman, and the Lightning defenseman coughed the puck up in front of his own net to Dominic Moore, who quickly settled the puck and whipped it past Bishop for his second goal of the season.
Less than a minute later McDonagh took an interference minor, but the Rangers held strong and killed off the second Tampa Bay power play of the night.
The Lightning took advantage of a Rangers turnover to score the first goal of the game late in the opening period, and that 1-0 score held up through 40 minutes of play. It marked only the third time this season that the Rangers had trailed after two periods.
The scoring play took shape when Keith Yandle tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice from his own goal line, with his pass intercepted at the blue line by Filppula. He quickly dished the puck to teammate Alex Killorn, who wristed a long shot between the two Rangers defensemen and under Lundqvist’s blocker for his third goal of the season, giving the Lightning the lead at 14:47 of the first.
Tampa Bay outshot New York 10-7 in the first period, while both teams recorded seven shots in the second. Legitimate scoring chances were few and far between for both teams in a tight-checking contest where each club did a good job defending in front of their top-notch goaltenders.
New York’s two best scoring chances in the first two periods came on its only power play opportunity early in the middle stanza. Mats Zuccarello was robbed by Stralman who flung himself along the goal line to deny a wide-open shot at 5:56 with Bishop down on the ice at the other side of the net. Then at 7:15 Kevin Hayes let loose a right wing slap shot that was deflected down by a Lightning stick, but Bishop made an alert save on the bouncing puck, squeezing it tightly against his body until the official blew his whistle.
Bishop made another terrific pad save to stone Derek Stepan from the slot–off a slick J.T. Miller pass–at 17:20 of the second.
At the other end of the ice Lundqvist denied Boyle with a quick flash of his glove five minutes into the middle twenty and then got his arm on a rising Nikita Kucherov shot during a Lightning 2-on-1 at the 17-minute mark..
The next best scoring opportunities came in the third period when Bishop first stopped Kreider with a pad save on a penalty shot at 3:51 and then followed less than a minute later with another sharp stop on Stepan.
The penalty shot was awarded when Kreider burst past Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr, and was hooked from behind as his shot was stopped by Bishop. Kreider then skated in from left wing on the penalty shot before wristing a low shot which was kicked out by Bishop. Kreider has now failed on both of his career penalty shots.