Lightning Open New Year with Shutout to Rangers

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning opened the new year with the second lopsided loss in three games. The New York Rangers jumped on the Lightning early and often and were able to hang on for the second win of the back-to-back against the Lightning.

Tampa Bay received some encouraging news prior to puck drop that Andrei Vasilevskiy and Anthony Cirelli would return to game action after being cleared from COVID protocols. Additionally, Erik Cernak also returned to the lineup for his first game since December fourth.

It was just one of those games for Tampa Bay where nothing went right for them, and everything went right for the Rangers. So, let’s break down how it happened.

1. Penalty Kill Starts Slow

With the early start time, the Lightning penalty kill was late to the party. After a questionable penalty led to the Rangers opening the scoring on the powerplay, the Rangers powerplay once again capitalized about five minutes later on a 4-on-3 power play. The Lightning penalty looked all out of sorts in front of Andrei Vasilevksiy in his first start since December 21st. Just past the halfway point of the first, the Rangers powerplay already had all of the goals they would need after converting on each of their first two chances.

2. Unable to generate enough

The Lightning dominated the shots on goal category throughout the contest. They controlled much of the pressure and offensive zone time, especially while trailing in the second period. Despite having a ton of zone time and the higher shots on goal tally, the Lightning did not have a ton of high-quality shots and were kept to the outside for much of the game.

3. Zibanejad Haunts Lightning Again.

After scoring the shootout winner against Tampa Bay in their last meeting, Mika Zibanejad scored a hat-trick this time around. He scored both of New York’s powerplay goals in the first period and added a third in the final period. Zibanejad now has five goals in his last six games after adding his eighth career hat-trick.

4. Igor Stands Tall

Vezina Trophy candidate Igor Shesterkin handed the Lighting their second shutout loss of the season. The Ranger netminder saved all 38 Lightning shots on the way to his second shutout of the year as well. Shesterkin was exceptional in net when he had to be. Despite the high shots on goal number, the Lightning did not test the Russian netminder as much as the numbers showed.

5. Somewhat of a Slide

Since returning from the Christmas break, the Lightning only have three points in four games. Their play over those four games has been just okay, at best. With so much uncertainty with the lineup and so many bodies coming and going, it has made for plenty of inconsistencies throughout different part of the Lightning’s game. Lineups will continue to be up in the air and the Lightning will have to push through this stretch. They will be back in action Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets to conclude the two-game road-trip. The Blue Jackets currently sit in sixth place in the Metropolitan division and will be coming off a 7-4 loss Saturday against Carolina.