Lightning Hit Empty vs Rangers

New York -, NY- Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers opened their seasons with confusion and disappointments. Tampa entered their penultimate October game having not live up to their immense talent level. New York played their final game of the month still working their young talent into NHL playing form. On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, New York ultimately won the matchup of building frustrations.

The Rangers piled up 14 shots in each of the three periods and dictated the pace for practically the entire night. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy played maybe his best game of the season, recording 38 saves on 41 shots faced for the night. To help his cause, Tampa actually scored first, aided by a Ranger mistake. NY went for a line change and Brayden Point caught the newly entering Rangers asleep. He drove the right lane and fired a backhanded pass across the slot to reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov, who buried his fourth goal of the season.

The second and third period belonged convincingly to New York. With Tampa seemingly in quick sand, the Rangers drew even in the second. The Ranger Power Play got an extended chance in the middle of the second following a Mathieu Joseph interference minor and an Ondrej Palat slashing infraction. As the second of the overlapping penalties wound down, Kaapo Kakko wound up and fired a shot on Vasilevskiy. He got a fortunate bounce, but the Ranger’s prized draft choice scored his second goal of the season to draw even at one apiece.

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Patrick Maroon takes a swing at New York Rangers center Michael Haley during the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, October 29, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

By the third period, Tampa was running on fumes. Anthony Cirelli did not skate at all. Patrick Maroon left the game injured after an opening period fight with Ranger enforcer Michael Haley. And Victor Hedman left after the second period.

With a shortened bench, the Rangers attacked and finally cracked Vasilevskiy. First, Pavel Buchnevich gained the zone on a rush and fed Filyp Chytil for a perfect tip over Vasilevskiy’s glove side. Then, with Tampa pushing, the Rangers got a 3on1 opportunity. Chris Krieder followed the textbook: shooting low blocker side to create a rebound for a teammate. Adam Fox was the lucky Ranger and the Harvard star and Hobey Baker runner up potted the first goal of his professional career. Ryan Strome topped off the game with an empty netter and the Rangers won 4-1.

New York improves to 4-5-1 on the season. Head Coach David Quinn was happy with his unit’s performance, particularly after a disappointing loss to Boston on Sunday. “We were certainly more engaged. We embraced the battle instead of avoided it. Once that happens, you start rolling.”

This was the first Ranger win vs Tampa at Madison Square Garden since October, 2016, and broke a five game Bolts winning streak overall.

Alexander Georgiev stopped 30 of 31 shots faced.

The Rangers open November with a trip to Nashville on Saturday, the 2nd. Puck drops against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena at 2 pm ET.

Tampa has questions to answer. They drop to 5-4-2 and will likely be without three important skaters with two games to play the next three nights.

“I think we’re being too tentative at times” commented Ryan McDonough. “We’ve got too much speed and skill and will. We’ve gotta get out there and execute that and trust each other.”

Jon Cooper had more observations on his team’s performance. “You’re only as good as your last game, right? The last few games, we’ve played pretty well. I’m not upset with our games. Just tough the way it unfolded tonight. We could be better on the ice, but we lost a few battles we normally win in the D-zone, we weren’t as aggressive as we’ve normally been.”

There may be some emergency call ups from the Tampa AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.

Tampa closes October with a trip to Newark on Wednesday to play the New Jersey Devils. Puck drops at 7 pm at the Prudential Center.