It never really caught on, or reached the levels of, say, Red Wings-Avalanche, but it wasn’t too long ago that Rangers-Lightning was an up-and-coming rivalry in the NHL.
Thursday night’s meeting briefly brought back the grit in the matchup, but more importantly for the New York Rangers, it brought a win.
JT Miller scored in an overtime session, and the Rangers earned a 2-1 victory on the road over the Tampa Lightning at Amalie Arena. It marks the first time this season that the Rangers (5-7-2) have won back-to-back games, and they have at least one point in six of their past eight games.
Going through a brief Florida road trip, the Rangers got off to a hot start against the Lightning (10-2-2), who entered the game winners of five of their past six games, as well as a 6-1-0 mark at home. The Rangers got off to a fast start, outshooting Tampa 13-8, and cashing in when Chris Kreider scored on an odd man rush late in period during a four-on-four. The teams were both shorthanded after the 5’7 Mats Zuccarello went at with the 6’6 Victor Hedman. It was Kreider’s third goal of the season, and third goal over the past four games.
The Rangers withstood a valiant Tampa Bay rush in the second period, kept in the game thanks to some timely saves by Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers power play unit, however, couldn’t help him out, as Pavel Buchnevich and Kevin Shattenkirk‘s inability to keep the puck in the Tampa zone led to a Lightning breakout, and Yanni Gourde cashed in to tie the score.
In a chippy third period, the Rangers appeared to give up an Alex Killorn goal in the early going, though the goal was later ruled null due to goaltender interference, a call that was upheld after a review. Things got chippy from thereon out, as Kevin Hayes appeared to spray water at Killorn from the bench before play resumed. It instigated a small brawl, complete with Steven Kampfer getting a five minute major along with ex-Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, and Steven Stamkos returned fire…or water…and ended up spraying MSG bench reporter John Giannone. The Rangers put nine shots on net in the period, taking advantage of Tampa turnovers, but were unable to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy, forcing an extra five minutes.
Blocking some prime Tampa chances, the Rangers cashed in on the first shot of the frame, as JT Miller scored to give the Blueshirts a much-needed victory. Lundqvist earned 27 saves in the victory, while Vasilevskiy countered with 33 saves in defeat. It also marked the second consecutive overtime win in Tampa for the Rangers, winning last season on a Mika Zibanejad goal last spring.
The two teams will not meet again until March 8, also at Amalie Arena.
The Rangers will conclude their Florida tour on Saturday, traveling to Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers (7:00 PM, MSG).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490