The Rangers went 3-for-3 with the man advantage last night to bury the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-3. The Rangers –without two of their top four defensemen, dressing a rookie in his first game, and three very inconsistent bottom-pairing players– managed to erase an early 2-1 deficit with three straight goals against a good Lightning club. Connor Allen played 16 minutes while working his way to the top-four, and afterwards AV said Allen was “one of the better defensemen on the ice.”
Rick Nash played a great game, finally finding the back of the net. Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves and looked like he could be regaining his old form. Mats Zuccarello had a goal and two assists. Chris Kreider continued his Calder push with another goal. All told, this was a solid team win that New York can build on as they head to Miami to face the Panthers on New Year’s Eve.
On to the goals:
Note: The first four goals were done by Suit, the last three by myself. We also were unable to get pictures for the goals. Apologies for that.
Rangers 1, Lightning 0
Derek Stepan picked off Tampa’s outlet pass on their blueline, trapping the Lightning up the ice. Stepan fed Nash on the left wing for the easy tip-in goal at the far post.
Lightning 1, Rangers 1
Four Ranger penalty killers collapsed around Teddy Purcell in the slot and left Tyler Johnson all alone on the weakside. Purcell managed to get the pass through to Johnson who one-timed an easy goal past Hank.
Lightning 2, Rangers 1
This goal begins with
Stepan Dom Moore losing the d-zone draw cleanly. Radko Gudas put a hard shot on net from the point, which Hank stopped with his right pad. Ondrej Palat beat Michael Del Zotto to the rebound and put it past Hank. I’m putting equal blame on Hank here. He had ample time to reset himself after the initial shot but he stayed in the butterfly after the first shot.
Rangers 2, Lightning 2
Luck finally worked out for the Rangers, as Zuccarello’s attempted pass from behind the net — to Benoit Pouliot in the slot– ricocheted off Gudas’ skate and in for the power play goal.
Rangers 3, Lightning 2
Zuccarello gained the zone on the powerplay, drawing all four Lightning penalty killers to him. Chris Kreider skated down the far side wing, and collected the pass from Zucc for the partial breakaway. Kreider used his speed to ensure distance between himself and the defense, and easily maneuvered around Anders Lindback for the goal.
Rangers 4, Lightning 2
The Rangers caught the Lightning running around in their own zone while on the powerplay, and when that happens people miss coverages. Zuccarello was able to pick up the loose puck in the offensive zone, and skate a wide arc to the far side wing before hitting Derick Brassard with a cross-ice pass. The pass drew Matt Carle away from Pouliot in the slot, and Brassard was able to one-touch the puck to him in the slot for the easy tip-in. Tic-tac-toe.
Lightning 3, Rangers 4
Although this was a nice deflection by Valtteri Filpulla for the goal, he was left wide open in the slot. J.T. Miller was in No Man’s Land at the near face off dot following the puck instead of the play. This allowed Filpulla to sneak to the high slot, where Purcell hit him with a pass for the deflection. In that play, Miller has to realize that his job is not the puck. You can make an argument that Carl Hagelin –who was closer to Filpulla– should have made the play, but Hagelin’s job is to keep an eye on the weak side point. Regardless of what Hagelin does, Filpulla is still Miller’s man.
The Rangers and Lightning were even in shot attempts until the Rangers jumped to a two-goal lead. At that point, the Rangers didn’t pressure as much, allowing Tampa Bay to generate the majority of the shot attempts in the second half of the game. At the end of the first, shot attempts were 16-14 Tampa. When New York took a two-goal lead they had a 22-21 advantage. The game finished with Tampa Bay holding a 60% Fenwick advantage as the Rangers protected their lead. Since this chart measures all shot attempts, and not just 5v5 shot attempts, it is a bit misleading since the Rangers had three powerplay goals in the first half of the game.
The Rangers found a way to win with a depleted blue line, which is something that should not be ignored. The star players appear to be finding their game, and the secondary scoring is still rolling without missing a beat. If this team can continue to get primary and secondary scoring, and keep their blue line healthy, they are poised for a run late this season. Those are a few big IFs though. For now, let’s call it another baby step in the right direction. The next step is beating a bad Panthers team on New Year’s Eve.