Tampa Bay Lightning Toppled By The New York Rangers


23. 5. 95. Final. 2

After falling far too short in the third period, the Tampa Bay Lightning are toppled by the New York Rangers 5-2 tonight at the Amalie Arena.

The Tampa Bay Lightning opened the doors to the Amalie Arena tonight to host their Eastern Conference Rivals, the New York Rangers, in the Lightning’s fifth game of their current six-game home stand. This is the second time these two teams have met since the Tampa Bay Lightning shut out the Rangers to become the Eastern Conference Champions and move on to battle the Chicago Blackhawks for the Stanley Cup.

The Lightning got a little relief tonight in terms of their offensive core. Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin returned to the Lightning lineup tonight after having missed seven games since being placed on the injured list back on December 10, 2015.

Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers came into tonight’s encounter hungry for a win. As the Tampa Bay Lightning are scratching and clawing to get themselves in the playoff picture, the New York Rangers are looking to leapfrog over the New York Islanders for the Second Place position in the Metropolitan Division. Needless to say, after handing a 5-3 win to the Nashville Predators, the Rangers have a special kind of determination to continue their road trip with an extra two points on the score sheet.

The first period of play definitely did not start off the way the Tampa Bay Lightning would have hoped. The New York Rangers took advantage of the momentary lapse in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s coverage, allowing Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle to strike first blood and give the New York Rangers the early lead.

If the Tampa Bay Lightning are truly going to get back on the right track and start winning games consistently, they are simply going to have to stop allowing their opponents to dictate the pace of the game. The Bolts will need to come out with the kind of offensive pressure we have come to expect from them last season.

The good news is, the Tampa Bay Lightning would not head into the first intermission being a goal down. Just over the halfway point in the period, Rangers left wing Rick Nash would find himself with a one-way ticket to the sin bin after nailing Lightning center Cedric Paquette in the face with his stick. The Tampa Bay Lightning has been very hot and cold lately on the Power Play, but this time they were definitely hot.

Just over 30 seconds into the penalty, Lightning center Jonathan Marchessault would position himself directly in front of the net as Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman would play the puck along the blue line. Having good placement on his side, Marchessault gets his stick on the puck, redirects it, and sends it flying past New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game up for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Unfortunately, when the Tampa Bay Lightning hit the ice for the Second Period, they seemed to fall into the same trap they were entangled in during the opening moments of the First Period. Rangers center J.T. Miller would be allowed to almost walk right into the zone. Once inside, Miller would hand the puck off to Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarello would fire off a shot that would fly right past Ben Bishop. It almost seemed as if Bishop never even saw it coming.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning was able to capitalize on one of their Power Play attempts tonight, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before they can be considered competitive. One of their biggest issues is taking shots when they become available. It almost seems as if all anyone is interested in doing anymore is setting up Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. This is just not a solid strategy in the long run.

As the game continued on, Tampa Bay Lightning fans started getting this overwhelming sense of déjà vu. At just over the 18 minute mark in the period, Brian Boyle would take a seat. Unfortunately, it was not on the Tampa Bay Lightning bench. As the puck was being played through the neutral zone, Rangers left wing Tanner Glass would rail Lightning center Brian Boyle and send him flying into the Rangers bench.

As you can imagine, this earned Glass a one way ticket to the sin bin for Interference. This would open the door for the Tampa Bay Lightning to finish off the period with the man advantage. Much like the First Period of the game, the Tampa Bay Lightning would capitalize on the opportunity. Of course, this particular goal had a lot more referee input in it than we’re used to.

The Tampa Bay Lightning would battle for the puck in front of the net. Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist would do everything in his power to keep the puck out of the back of the net, but Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman would continue to dig for the rebound and send the puck into the back of the net. Eventually, Stralman was able to jam the puck under the blocker of Lundqvist and over the line.

At first, the referees attempt to disallow the goal because they felt the puck crossed the line after the whistle had blown. Fortunately, the senior ref seemed to have a different opinion on the matter. After taking a closer look at the goal via the good people monitoring all the action in Toronto, it was ruled to be a good goal and the Tampa Bay Lightning would head into the second intermission tied up once again, this time at two apiece.

When the Bolts would hit the ice for the Third Period, the Tampa Bay Lightning would break from the normalcy they displayed in the first two periods of play. Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula had an excellent opportunity in the opening minute of the period to put the puck in the back of the net, but the quick thinking of Marc Staal kept the puck out of the back of the net and no goal for the Bolts.

Unfortunately, much like the two previous periods of play, it would indeed be the New York Rangers who would strike first in the third. The Lightning would battle for the puck in the defensive zone when the puck would slam into the stick of Victor Hedman. The puck would then zoom straight to the stick of former Tampa Bay Lightning center Dominic Moore, who completely beat Bishop and sent the puck flying into the back of the net.

This would leave the Tampa Bay Lightning clawing and scratching to get back on top with just over 15 minutes left to play in the period. There are many circumstances where the Tampa Bay Lightning has played well under pressure, but considering the situation they find themselves in this season, this is not where the Bolts want to be at this point in a game; especially against an opponent like the New York Rangers.

Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s lack of offensive aggression throughout most of the period, and the game for that matter, would eventually come back to bite them in the end. The Tampa Bay Lightning were battling in the Rangers zone for the faceoff. The puck would be knocked out and unfortunately onto the stick of Viktor Stalberg. With just 1:21 left in the game, Stalberg would send the puck coast to coast and directly into the empty net.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the New York Rangers decided to add a little insult to injury. There is just under 40 seconds left in the period and Victor Hedman would attempt to fire off a one time at Lundqvist. Unfortunately, as soon as his stick hit the puck it exploded into pieces. Needless to say, his shot did not exactly find the mark. The Rangers would pass the puck up the ice, Rick Nash would walk the puck to the net, completely unopposed, and tap the puck into the net to put the nail in the coffin of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

When all was said and done, the New York Rangers would snap an eight-game losing streak on the road with a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. We don’t know about you, but we are a little tired of the Lightning’s opponents breaking losing streaks at the expense of the Tampa Bay Lightning and their lackluster effort.

Over the course of the season, we have seen glimmers of the team that defeated the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals and battled for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, the Lightning hasn’t been able to find any sort of consistency or put a real string of wins together. If the Tampa Bay Lightning has any hope at all of continuing to play hockey in April, they are going to have to make a change, and now.

While the rest of the world is setting their New Year’s Resolutions, the Tampa Bay Lightning need to set a few of their own. When the Bolts emerge in the New Year to take on the Minnesota Wild on January 2nd, they need to let go of the past and focus on the future. They need to be more offensive aggressive, defensively tight, and stop allowing their opponents to dictate the pace of the game. Also…the Power Play needs to be fixed.

We have a sneaking suspicion if Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper can’t shake up the Lightning lineup enough to get back on the right track, there is going to be a bit of movement as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches.

We all know the Tampa Bay Lightning has the talent to get the job done. While it is easy to watch a team lacking in talent and skill drop a game or two during the season, it is especially painful to watch a team with so much potential and raw skill as the Tampa Bay Lightning has in their roster continue to struggle like this.

As we mentioned before, the Tampa Bay Lightning will kick off the New Year on January 2nd as they finish off their current six-game home stand with a battle against the Minnesota Wild. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:00 p.m.

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