When the Tampa Bay Lightning power play unit is clicking the way it was in the first two periods Wednesday night against the New York Rangers, they can mount one of the scariest offensive attacks in the entire league.
Ryan Malone netted two first period power play goals and Brett Clark added another in the second, as the Bolts’ man advantage had a big night. Tampa Bay scored on three of their first four chances, and ended up 3-6 by game’s end.
Once again Steven Stamkos led the way with a goal and two assists. The goal was “Stammer’s” 21st on the season, far and away the tops in the NHL.
Tampa Bay came out strong right off the game’s opening faceoff, forcing the play in the Rangers’ end.
Both first period goals were almost carbon copies of one other. The first saw New York’s Ryan Callahan in the penalty box for holding, and the second with Derek Boogaard in the sin bin for hauling down Nate Thompson on a quality scoring chance. On each a pass was sent to Stamkos in the left faceoff circle, where he hammered a one-timer right on starting netminder Henrik Lundqvist. “King Henrik” was able to make the save both times, only to have Malone jam the rebound by him and into the net.
Tampa Bay outshot New York 11-5 in the first and after one, Malone’s two power play tallies were the margin in the game.
The Lightning were even more dominant in the second, and Bolts’ starting goaltender Mike Smith had a very easy first three quarters of the middle stanza. As a matter of fact, the Rangers didn’t even register their first shot on goal until there was just 6:29 left in the period.
Meanwhile at the other end, Lundqvist was doing his best to keep the Broadway Blueshirts in the game.
Just under five minutes into the second Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie broke out on a two-on-one. St. Louis carried the puck into the zone and hit Downie, who caught a glimpse of Stamkos charging through the slot and towards the net. Downie put it where his teammate could reach it, and Stamkos made no mistake in deflecting the puck past Lundqvist and into the net. It was now 3-0, and the Bolts were swarming.
Midway through the frame with Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal off for roughing, Tampa Bay would add to their lead. St. Louis got the puck to Teddy Purcell, who hit Downie in the high slot. Downie was originally credited with the goal as he ripped a shot that appeared to beat Lundqvist cleanly. But after official scorers reviewed the play during the second intermission the goal was changed to defenseman Brett Clark, who was in front of the New York goal and got a piece of the puck on its way into the net. It was Clark’s fifth goal of the year and third with the man advantage. It was now 4-0.
Late in the second and shortly after killing off a Blair Jones holding minor, the Lightning would strike again. Sean Bergenheim gathered the puck in the offensive left wing corner. He passed the puck to Mattias Ritola, who sent a flat pass to defenseman Victor Hedman at the left point. The giant rear guard wristed the puck past Lundqvist for his first of the season, and with less than four minutes left in the middle frame, Tampa Bay was cruising at 5-0.
The Bolts held a distinct territorial edge in play and it showed in the shot totals, as the Lightning recorded 14 shots to only two for the Rangers. The two period total saw Tampa Bay holding a whopping 25-7 lead.
With a five-goal cushion, the Bolts definitely relaxed in the third period. And it nearly made things really interesting as to the outcome of the contest.
Ex-Bolts’ blue liner Steve Eminger notched his first goal of the year early in the third to give New York some life, then Brian Boyle notched a shorthanded tally midway through the period. When rookie Derek Stepan scored with just over a minute left in regulation while the Rangers were in the midst of a two-man advantage, it got a little closer for comfort than head coach Guy Boucher would have anticipated.
With the second minor still having time left and Rangers’ head coach John Tortorella pulling Lundqvist in favor of an extra attacker, it was basically a six-on-four with a chance to pull to within one goal. But luckily for Tampa Bay, they were able to hold off the New York power play to ensure the victory.
The Rangers outshot the Lightning 13-9 in the third, and Boucher was not a happy man after the game. Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune sent this report via Twitter: Guy Boucher on 3rd period “Complete lack of respect for the opponent and a lack of respect for what we do. I’m not happy about win at all”.
Despite the fact that his team had beaten a fairly hot Rangers club that was just about dead even in the Eastern Conference standings and extended their winning streak to five games, odds are that Boucher will work with his Lightning players with two key divisional games coming up.
The Bolts travel to the Verizon Center in Washington to play the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference-leading Capitals Friday evening, then return home to take on division rival Florida Panthers on Saturday.
And they cannot afford to play these upcoming games like they did in the third period tonight.
Bolts Bits: The return of Simon Gagne was once again delayed. After skating in practice this morning, Gagne didn’t skate in the pre-game warmups. Reports have him still experiencing pressure in his forehead after strenuous workouts…St. Louis had briefly tied Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks for the NHL lead in assists with his third of the night to give him 22 on the season. But when Downie’s second period goal was changed to Clark’s, St. Louis lost an assist. He finished the night with two, and with Sedin recording two helpers of his own on the West coast against the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis again trails Sedin by three…Malone had a chance to complete the hat trick on a shorthanded breakaway in the third, but Lundqvist made the save…Purcell continues to contribute, and is getting a decent amount of ice time on the power play. He recorded to assists tonight, and is third on the Lightning with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists)…Smith has now won his last three starts, plus last Thursday’s wild 8-7 win over the Flyers in relief of Dan Ellis, who has not started another game since that night…As Bergenheim’s pass left his stick just prior to the Hedman goal, Eminger hit him with a knee-on-knee collision. Bergenheim was initially a bit slow to get back to his skates…Rangers’ super pest Sean Avery took exception to a clean open ice hit by Tampa defenseman Mattias Ohlund on Erik Christensen. In addition to each receiving fighting majors, Avery was given a two-minute minor for instigation and a 10-minute misconduct for his efforts.
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