This was a rough one to watch. Unlike the 9-2 and 6-0 thrashings on the west coast, the Rangers dominated puck possession for most of the game. They just couldn’t get one past a surprisingly good Ben Bishop (who has been good for most of the year). Plus, it looked like the team was gripping their sticks too tight after getting into a 2-0 hole within three minutes.
The Rangers may have dominated puck possession, but the Lightning caused turnovers and, more importantly, capitalized on those turnovers. Puck possession is an important aspect of the game, but when you are turning the puck over so much, your opponents will beat you. There’s no way around it.
On to the goals:
Lightning 1, Rangers 0
Michael Del Zotto actually had Nikita Kucherov tied up in front of the net while the puck was in the corner. Kucherov released and moved out a little bit to the hash marks, and inexplicably found open ice between four Rangers. The Rangers system calls for Del Zotto to go to the corner for that loose puck, not Derick Brassard. Del Zotto should have adjusted here and stuck with Kucherov, but he hesitated for a split second, which gave Kucherov that room.
Lightning 2, Rangers 0
Lightning 3, Rangers 0
Derek Dorsett was forced into a turnover in the neutral zone, and then St. Louis was again sprung on a breakaway stemming from that turnover. The transition game killed the Rangers.
Lightning 4, Rangers 0
The refs missed a big call when Brad Richards was taken down at the blue line, but that doesn’t excuse the 4-on-2 that it led to. I may have an issue with Dan Girardi leaving his feet here, but there was no sign of backcheck, and let’s just be honest, this is a 4-on-2. Teddy Purcell ripped a nice shot over Henrik Lundqvist, seeing the passing lanes were taken.
Lightning 5, Rangers 0
John Moore didn’t get the puck deep, and eventually was forced into another neutral zone turnover. This led to a 3-on-1 with Del Zotto back. MDZ broke up the initial pass, but the puck didn’t bounce his way as Purcell was able to collect the loose puck and backhand it past Cam Talbot. The goal broke up Talbot’s shutout streak of about 160 minutes.
The early Tampa Fenwick advantage doesn’t really lead to the first two goals here. But with a two goal lead, the Lightning were able to sit back a bit and just force turnovers in the neutral zone. Those turnovers led to the third and fifth goals, but when they weren’t forcing turnovers they were getting outshot pretty badly. That’s expected of a team with two and three goal leads. They closed the gap in the second due to two straight Ranger penalties, but that’s the only reason why the gap was closed. The Rangers took off in the third because Tampa stopped attacking.
This was a rough one to watch, but it’s a good thing that hockey players have short memories. Tampa is a very quick team that kills you on the transition, as we found out last night. The Panthers are up next, and the Rangers can guarantee themselves a winning road trip with a win Wednesday night.