This loss is a tough one to really get upset over. Sure, the Rangers got burned on the second goal due to a nine second brain fart. But Ben Bishop made 33 saves –a lot of them very difficult saves– en route to stealing this win in his return to action. The game was actually very evenly matched throughout, with both teams exchanging scoring chances and playing a bit of a run-and-gun style. It wasn’t until the third period when the Rangers started to pull away in the shot attempt department as Tampa Bay started sitting on their lead.
The Rangers had 15 third period shot attempts, 11 on net, and Bishop got them all, including several solid chances on two separate powerplays. Such is life, and goalies steal games every now and then. This time the Rangers were victimized by a goalie who is undefeated with ridiculous numbers (sub-1.00 GAA, roughly .975 SV%) against them. Even with the loss, the Rangers are still 8-3-1 in their last 12 games.
On to the goals:
Rangers 1, Lightning 0
After an offensive zone faceoff win, the Rangers generated two solid chances by Ryan McDonagh and Carl Hagelin. When Hagelin’s shot went wide, Ryan Callahan came behind the net to collect the loose puck. Cally fed Brad Richards at a relatively bad angle, who beat Bishop. I would think Bishop wants this one back because of the angle, but I don’t think he expected that quick of a release from Richards, especially from that angle. The Lightning didn’t have a breakdown here. Richards was covered at the bad angle, which you’re generally comfortable with. You don’t want two guys behind the net, but the slot was still covered.
Lightning 1, Rangers 1
There isn’t much to breakdown here. Victor Hedman simply let loose a cannon from the point while on the powerplay. It was just a great shot.
Lightning 2, Rangers 1
This was not a smart play by the Rangers, specifically Michael Del Zotto. Tampa runs this set play off the face off, where the winger moves towards the boards after a face off win, then cuts to the middle looking for a pass. Martin St. Louis tried it earlier in the game. This time NIkita Kucherov tried it, and caught MDZ sleeping as he took the pass from Radko Gudas for the breakaway goal. Alain Vigneault was notably upset with the team on that one.
As mentioned above, the game was pretty tight throughout the first two periods. But it’s worth noting that the Rangers held the Lightning for several long stretches without a registered shot attempt. Tampa didn’t have a shot attempt from shortly after the Rangers goal until they scored both of their goals in the second. There were two other notably long stretches in the second where they went without a Fenwick event as well. The two long stretches in the third were due to powerplays for the Rangers. The Rangers pressed hard to tie, eventually winding up with a 59% Fenwick advantage, but Bishop was the difference.
These losses happen. It’s not like the Rangers played poorly and handed the game over to Tampa on a silver platter. It was actually one of the more exciting low scoring games I’ve seen in a while. Even with the loss, the Rangers have the chance of a big month. The important thing was that they did the right things, for the most part. Have to stop that set play off the face off though.