This was a fun game to watch. The Rangers and Lightning both came out firing, and there was a lot of back and forth action in the first period. Credit for this win goes to Marty Biron, who stood on his head and made some phenomenal saves to keep the Rangers in the game. This was the best overall game for the Rangers this year. It’s also worth noting that the Rangers finally got scoring from Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin. Their absence from the score sheet was the crux of the forward depth issue.
On to the goals:
Lightning 1, Rangers 0
Stu Bickel took a bad hooking penalty, which gave one of the league’s most skilled teams a powerplay chance. After some corner work, the puck finds its way to Rick Nash, who doesn’t clear the zone. Ryan Malone took the puck away, giving the dangerous first PP unit more time with tired penalty killers on the ice. The puck works itself out to the point, and for some reason Ryan McDonagh follows the puck all the way to the point. The Lightning are skilled enough to pass the puck around and exploit this blown coverage. Dan Girardi can’t cover both guys in front, and this is an easy goal for Steven Stamkos.
Rangers 1, Lightning 1
This goal happens because the Rangers got the puck to the net, but also because the Lightning blew some assignments following the end of the penalty. Carl Hagelin eventually winds up with the puck on his stick in the corner, and throws it towards the net. Taylor Pyatt, who was left untouched in front, tipped the puck on goal. Pyatt was open because Sami Salo neglected to cover him (above). Dana Tyrell was also in No Man’s Land.
Matieu Garon left a big rebound after the puck hit him in the chest. Tyrell couldn’t recover in time from No Man’s Land and didn’t cover Derek Stepan cutting to the net. By the time Purcell got to Stepan, it was too late. Tie game.
Rangers 2, Lightning 1
Sometimes you just get beat. Victor Hedman got beat, badly, by one of the best in the game. That’s why you get Rick Nash. It also helps that Garon didn’t have his pad flush to the ice.
Rangers 3, Lightning 1
This goal is just a product of hard work by Taylor Pyatt, and pure speed by Carl Hagelin. The puck winds up on Matt Carle’s stick at the half-boards, and Pyatt just pressures him into turning the puck over. After that, Pyatt just floats the puck to the middle, where Hagelin uses his speed to burn past Nate Thompson (#44, far side of image) and Adam Hall (#18, near side). Hagelin just pokes it through the wide open wickets of Garon.
Lightning 2, Rangers 3
With Garon pulled, the Lightning threw everything they had at the Rangers, and they eventually got through. After some very tough board work, the puck worked its way to Carle, who had loads of time. The reason why he had loads of time is because the Rangers play a collapsing box in the zone, which leaves the point men wide open. Looking at the picture, you can see four Rangers in the box, with one Ranger off screen to the right. While Carle may have stayed at the blue line, Stamkos read this perfectly and drifted to his favorite spot: The top of the circle on the off-wing. All Carle had to do was put it in his wheelhouse. No goalie in the world is stopping that rocket. The long shift didn’t help either.
All in all, this was a solid Rangers win. They weren’t perfect, but they were far better than they have been this season. The secondary scoring is coming along. It was only a matter of time.