New York defeats the Lightning 2-1
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s prolific offense never got going on a night defined by hockey fights both figurative and literal, two of the league’s best goalies were on top of their games, and the New York Rangers tipped the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in overtime.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was the first star in spite of taking the loss, saving 33 shots and keeping the Lightning in a game where the skaters were not performing as expected. The only Lightning goal came from Yanni Gourde.
What looked like a clean third period goal for Tampa Bay was waved off, citing goaltender interference. The crowd disagreed. The Lightning disagreed. In his postgame comments, coach John Cooper called it “a bad call.” Referees convened to review the play, and the result was this:
Perhaps both teams misunderstood or misheard the phrase “Hockey Fights Cancer Night,” because the game stopped once in each period for a fight. Fights in every period might have been crowd-pleasing, but they set the tone for a physical, slower game that a team like the Lightning aren’t used to playing.
It was a short overtime, as J.T. Miller scored just 1:19 into the extra frame when he skated across the front of Vasilevskiy and shot when he saw net.
As part of Hockey Fights Cancer Night, the Lightning wore lavender warmup sweaters and turned the ads along the boards the same color. The jerseys, as well as sticks with lavender tape, were made available for auction.
The first period started off slow, with both teams seemingly feeling one another out, but the Rangers generally controlled the puck and therefore the action. New York shrugged off a penalty kill to take the early lead late in the first on a Chris Kreider goal during a 4-on-4 opportunity. It was the kind of period the Lightning are generally content to play, preferring to shoot first rather than set up offense and keep the puck. That can be dangerous, and on Thursday night it led to a first period where the Rangers knocked on the door until Vasilevskiy finally relented.
With the Rangers ahead, the game got physical. Skirmishes erupted around both goals, leading to a combined four fighting penalties and a minor for cross checking to Vladislav Namestnikov.
The Rangers’ famed goalie Henrik Lundqvist lived up to his billing early on. A couple of sprawling saves and some aggressive play stopped Lightning opportunities in their tracks. At one point he made a save with his helmet. That’s the kind of thing that only a select few people have the opportunity to do.
With the Rangers on their first power play of the night care of the Namestnikov penalty, it was the Lightning who took over. After forcing a turnover, the Lightning got out running on an odd man rush. Patient passing found Yanni Gourde all alone, and he put it home for the game-tying goal. After looking downright lethargic at times in the first two periods, the Bolts found themselves even with the Rangers. Tampa Bay controlled the action for the rest of the second, mounting another rush on Lundqvist to try and take a lead, but the Rangers’ netminder did his job and kept the game even through two.
The third period was as chippy as the first two. About four minutes in, with the crowd and the Lightning already hot off what they thought was their second goal until it was taken off the board due to an interference call, a third fight of the night broke out. This one led to an extra Lightning penalty, putting the Rangers on their second power play. The refereeing only served to get the crowd involved in a way they hadn’t been to that point. Amalie Arena came alive, albeit with rage, booing emphatically any time the Rangers touched the puck and cheering wildly for a Rangers penalty that turned the man advantage tables.
Had the goal been recognized, the Lightning would have led 2-1 in the third. All other things equal, that turned out to be the difference in the game. Without that goal, the Rangers could force overtime and win on the quick OT goal. Referee calls are a bit like luck; some nights the stripes point at you and that’s just all there is to it.
Like the rest of the game, the third period was end-to-end action, with both teams getting their fair share of good looks on net, but both goalies proving worthy of the big netminding matchup. It was good enough puck-stopping to keep the third period scoreless and send the game into overtime.
The Lightning will stay at home for a few days, preparing to host the Columbus Blue Jackets. At 9-4-0 and coming off a 7-3 win against the Florida Panthers, the Blue Jackets figure to be a factor in the Eastern Conference not unlike the Lightning. Led by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, the Blue Jackets are one of the finest defensive teams in the NHL. Saturday’s game, then, should be a display of strength vs. strength as the Lightning’s scorers try to get going after a rough Thursday night against a difficult Columbus blue line.