The Tampa Bay Lightning may have walked away with one lone point, but their battle with the New York Rangers will be talked about for quite a while.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been on quite the tear lately, bringing home points in 10 of their last 12 games. Tonight, the Lightning had a lot more than two points on the line. The Bolts had an opportunity to exact same sweet revenge on a familiar foe, the New York Rangers.
As most Lightning fans will remember, things were not exactly wine and roses the last time these two teams met. Back on October 30th at Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple, the New York Rangers unceremoniously dismantled the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-1.
Needless to say, the Lightning came into tonight’s encounter looking to even the score with the Rangers, exact some sweet revenge, and bring home a much-needed two points. There is no denying it would be a hard-fought battle, but in the end, only one team could emerge victoriously.
Tampa Bay Lightning
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Things wouldn’t exactly go according to plan, but at the end of the day, this was the kind of game people are going to talk about for quite some time.
The first period got off to a really quick start. The tension between the Lightning and the Rangers was palpable from the moment the first puck dropped. Unsurprisingly, it took a mere 6:34 seconds for things to shift into high gear.
Before anyone knew what happened, Lightning defenseman Luke Witkowski and Rangers forward Tanner Glass had their gloves on the ice and were embroiled in one of the most exciting fights hockey fans have seen in quite some time. It was almost like watching two behemoths battle it out inside the squared circle.
Obviously, both Witkowski and Glass would be sent to the sin bin for five minutes for fighting, but this penalty served a much greater purpose. This fight got both the players on the ice and the fans in the stands hyped up and ready to go for an exciting night of hockey.
Despite all the intensity in the building, neither the Lightning nor the Rangers were able to convert any of the crackling energy into a goal. When the buzzer would sound to end the first period of play, these two teams would remain scoreless. Unfortunately, it would be the Rangers who would emerge with a slight edge.
The Rangers would barely edge out the Lightning in terms of shots on goal, going 12-9 in favor of the Rangers. Fortunately, the Lightning wouldn’t allow this to deter them from hitting the ice with the same intensity in the second period of play.
There was plenty of back and forth between these two teams in the second period, but once again, neither team would be able to make their way to the scoresheet. Of course, this didn’t mean the period was without its share of excitement. The tension in the building had not yet found a way to dissipate during the intermission.
There were six penalties in the second period, four of which would belong to the Rangers with the other two belonging to the real Boys in Blue. Despite the rough and tumble of the second period, there was a shift in other aspects of the game.
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In the second 20 minutes of play, the Lightning would subtly take the edge the Rangers had in the first period and turn it against them. This time, the Lightning would be the ones to outshoot the Rangers. The Bolts outshot the Rangers 16-12 in the second for a two-period total of 25-24 in favor of the Lightning.
The third period between the Lightning and the Rangers would be much of the same. Both teams would fight tooth and nail to break the veil of their opposing netminder, but neither team would be able to get the job done before the buzzer would sound.
Much like the second period of play, the Tampa Bay Lightning would once again control the pace of the game. When the buzzer would sound to end regulation, the Lightning would outshoot the Rangers 12-8 for a three-period total of 37-32 in favor of the Lightning.
Another place the Lightning continued to dominate was the faceoff circle. Through three periods of play, the Lightning would emerge with a 55-45 Faceoff Won Percentage over the Rangers. As many hockey fans know, a faceoff win can determine the fate of a team when push comes to shove and the game is on the line.
In an almost mirror image of the Lightning’s battle with the Buffalo Sabres, the Lightning and Rangers would be headed to overtime. This is always an intense time for hockey fans. Every single shot matters and one simple mistake could ultimately lead your team to the greatest victory or a painful defeat.
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Unfortunately for the Lightning, things wouldn’t exactly go according to plan. New York Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad would end up on a breakaway near the four-minute mark in the overtime period. With just 1:04 seconds left in overtime, Zibanejad would beat Vasilevskiy and steal the game out of the hands of the Bolts.
On the bright side, the Tampa Bay Lightning taking this game to overtime not only gives them at least a point towards their postseason venture, but it also adds to the Lightning’s point spread. When you add in tonight’s point, the Lightning has brought home points in 11 of their last 13 games.
Tonight’s encounter was far from a perfect game; however, the Lightning showed a lot of grit and determination. This is something the team had been missing for a good portion of the season; something the team will desperately need if they want to navigate their way into a postseason spot.
One of the biggest successes of tonight’s game, other than Witkowski’s stellar fighting skills, has been the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. There were more times than a Lightning fan would like to admit where the Lightning defense left Vasy out to dry, and much like Ben Bishop before him, he was quick to make the save.
Despite the outcome of the game, tonight’s game was a far cry from the last meeting between these two teams. This time around, the Lightning made the Rangers work for each and every advantage they had in tonight’s game. All in all, this was an incredibly exciting night of Lightning hockey.
The Lightning now has two days off before they will open the doors to the Amalie Arena once again, this time to play host to the Minnesota Wild. Right now, the Wild are leading the way in the highly contested Western Conference. The Bolts are definitely going to have to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to bring home the points.