I am sure that this is not how the Tampa Bay Lightning envisioned the start of their four game road trip through the Northeast, but unfortunately, a complete failure to capitalize has lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to their third straight loss as they fall to the New York Rangers 4-1.
While I will contend that the referees called quite a few “Ghost Penalties” against the Lightning tonight, the Lightning are simply not capitalizing on the opportunities in front of them.
The Lightning were 0 for 3 on the Power Play tonight. Add that to the 6 PP opportunities that they had against the Buffalo Sabres on the 26th, and the 3 opportunities that they had against Pittsburgh Penguins on the 24th; that brings them to a total of 1 for 12 on the PP over the last 3 games. This is very disappointing coming from a team whose Power Play squad started the season as one of the best in the NHL.
This brings me to Shots on Goal. The Lightning were outshot by the Rangers tonight 42-25. I’m no math major here, but the Rangers were 8 shy of double the amount of shots that the Lightning took tonight.
Since the Lightning’s initial 5 game win streak was broken by, ironically, the New York Rangers on February 2nd, the Lightning have been suffering from what I like to call “Blue Line Syndrome.” In other words, the look fabulous until they get to the blue line, and then all of a sudden it’s “Whoops! Where did the puck go?”
The game started out looking good. The team looked like they were skating with more intensity, and were handling the puck much better. But then at 7:23, Rangers LW Carl Hagelin opened up the scoring. 1:17 later, at 8:40, the Rangers center Derek Stepan firing one past Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon making the score 2-0 early in the first.
After a pair of Fighting Majors to both Lightning RW B.J. Crombeen and Rangers defenseman Stu Bickel, and then a 2 minute penalty to Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger, the score remained the same. Then, at 16:09 in the first, Martin St. Louis opened up the score for the Lightning with assists going to Eric Brewer and Steven Stamkos, bringing it back to a one goal game. This seemed to give new life to the beleaguered Lightning offense.
Unfortunately, this was followed by what most fans would refer to as “Ghost Penalties.” The first of which was handed to Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer for Interference to Rangers RW Darroll Powe. Then, there was the call to Stamkos for Delaying the Game. Finally, there was the penalty to Lightning center Alex Killorn for Interference to Rangers RW Marion Gaborik right off of the faceoff. The Lightning were able to kill the 5 on 3, as well as the following power play; however, the at the end of the penalty to Killorn ended with a goal from Rangers defenseman Marc Staal with assists from center J.T. Miller and LW Rick Nash. This brought the score to 3-1 Rangers.
Unfortunately, the third period was more of the same for the Bolts. At 4:58 in the third, Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was called to the box for 2 minutes for holding Marty St. Louis. The Rangers were ultimately able to kill of this penalty.
The Lightning made a decent push in the 3rd period, most notably with the 2 on 1 rush with Stamkos and St. Louis; unfortunately, Lundqvist was there to make the stop. There was a lot of back and forth between both teams for the remainder of the game; however, the proverbial nail in the coffin was delivered at 18:27 in the 3rd when Rangers LW Rick Nash, who just returned to the Rangers lineup after being sidelined with an injury, fired one between the pipes with the assists going to former Bolt, and current Rangers center Brad Richards, and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. This brought the final score to 4-1 Rangers.
As much as it pains me to say this, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had a stellar night tonight. While only facing 25 shots tonight, he did block all but one of them. Not to mention the previously mentioned 2-1 rush that he was able to ward off from Stamkos and St. Louis. This garnered him the second star of the game.
On a more positive note, I think Mathieu Garon played a tremendous game. He made a lot of key saves that could have sent the score skyrocketing for the Rangers if not properly handled.
Besides, blocking 38 of 42 shots is no small feat. In all honestly, this game could have ended much more ugly had Garon not been on his game tonight. I know that sounds funny coming from the team that lost, but it is what it is.
Garon played a wonderful game.
I just wish that the team would have come to the Garden with the same amount of effort.
Hopefully, the Lightning can build on what they have learned from tonight, and bring it up a notch or two for the remainder of the road trip.
Next up, the Lightning will travel to Boston to take on the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on Saturday, March 2nd. Boston is on quite the hot streak. After their OT win against the Ottawa Senators tonight,the Bruins are on a 5 game win streak. They are currently 13-2-2 this season. After the first meeting with the Lightning being cancelled due to Winter Storm Nemo, the Bruins did take the first meeting against the Bolts 4-2 on February 21st at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. It will be a tough game, but I think if the Lightning can walk into the TD Garden with the right mindset and a desire to win, then I think anything is possible.
The puck drops at 1:00 p.m. EST.