The Rangers dropped a tightly contested 3-2 result to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, unable to complete the sweep of their three game season series with the Bolts. While the result on its own isn’t disastrous, the main concern for the Blueshirts is their continued mediocre play at Madison Square Garden, as well as a lack of ability to sustain a full, 60-minute effort.
In some ways, the Rangers lost this game in the first period. While they were utterly dominant, generating 23 total shot attempts and 11 scoring chances, they went to the locker room tied 1-1. As the game wore on, the Lightning tightened up defensively and were able to capitalize on their chances, while the Rangers let their few golden opportunities go begging.
Steven Kampfer opened the scoring, hammering home Mats Zuccarello’s feed to the point off a set faceoff play. It was Kampfer’s first goal as a Ranger, as the home team was rewarded for their strong start.
Unfortunately, the lead lasted for only a minute and 50 seconds. With Brendan Smith in the box for tripping, Nikita Kucherov found Brayden Point open in the right circle for a one-time finish to the far post. The Rangers penalty kill strikes again.
Tampa came out hot to start the second period, establishing their forecheck and spending some time in the Rangers’ zone. Their second goal came off a successful board battle, with the puck finding its way to Jason Garrison at the left point. Gabriel Dumont deflected his soft wrist shot past Raanta, who was sliding to his left as the puck skittered back to his right. What made this goal even more painful was the fact that just moments earlier, Pavel Buchnevich missed a wide open net off a perfect cross-ice feed from Mika Zibanejad. Hockey can indeed be cruel sometimes.
Michael Grabner tied the game at 2-2 with a great individual effort, capitalizing on a Garrison blunder and chipping the puck past Peter Budaj. The goal was Grabner’s 27th of the season, which leads the Rangers.
Unfortunately, the Rangers didn’t carry momentum into the third, and were unable to generate much in the way of offense. Instead, it was the visitors who broke through, with Brayden Point finishing off a perfectly executed give-and-go with Ondrej Palat. It’s tough to find fault with any Ranger on this play, though Ryan McDonagh (excellent again in this game) admitted after the game he could’ve done a better job trying to tie up Point.
After opening the game with 13 shots on goal in the first period, the Rangers got only 15 the rest of the way, and only two with the extra attacker at the end of the game. Despite limiting Tampa Bay to 16 shots on goal in the game and out-chancing them 26-18 at even strength, the Rangers wound up on the wrong side of the final score. All in all, this was not the team’s best effort, but not their worst either. As Dave mentioned yesterday in his preview, process is arguably more important than results for the Rangers right now, and they showed some good signs in this one, particularly in the first period.
The Blueshirts will have three days off before returning to action Friday night at home vs. Florida.