Not much to say about tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning other than that the Rangers did not compete in this game until the final few minutes of the third period. They gave goaltender Henrik Lundqvist absolutely no help, defensively they were a mess and there barely was any offense whatsoever. Give the Lightning credit, because they did play a solid game this evening, but the Blueshirts, at the very least, could have showed some fight. They did not do that until there was under five minutes left in regulation, which was far too late.
The beginning of the first period had a nice pace to it until the Lightning were put on their first powerplay of the game at 7:06, which was when things started to go downhill for New York. After what was originally a sharp angle shot by Steven Stamkos, three Tampa players crowded Lundqvist’s crease and forced him to make some sprawling stops, but he could not get a pad on Ryan Malone’s wrister. Leading 1-0, the Lightning increased their lead later in the first when Malone scored his second of the period, also on the powerplay. On both goals the Rangers were guilty of not clearing the crease.
Things only got worse in the second. First it was Stamkos scoring his 21st of the season on a 3-on-1 with St. Louis and Downie. Just six minutes later Brett Clark would notch a powerplay tally and following that came Victor Hedman’s lofter from the point that eluded Lundqvist. With the score being 5-0 at that point, John Tortorella originally had Martin Biron going in for Henrik, but then changed his mind. This was probably for the better since you do not want Biron being subject to the poor defensive play by the Blueshirts.
The Rangers tried coming back in the third period, but simply ran out of time. Steve Eminger started the rally with his first as a Ranger at 3:58. Then Brian Boyle capitalized shorthanded by burying his tenth goal of the year. And finally, before the final buzzer rang, Derek Stepan’s one-timer on the powerplay would cut the Lightning’s lead to 5-3, which ended up being tonight’s final score.
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Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t bad, in fact he played quite well in my opinion. Sure, he allowed five goals, but four of them were not his fault. Not to mention he had a rough night physically as well, taking abuse from Bolts forwards crashing the net hard. He received an unsportsmanlike minor for diving in the second period when meanwhile it was Malone that knocked him into the net. Malone was pushed by Girardi, but the extra shove to Lundqvist’s chest was unnecessary, as was the diving call. Henrik is never one to fake like that. Ever.
Derek Stepan was one of the few players in white to actually play well tonight. His point scoring streak is now at five games and he has a total of five goals on the season. Like I have been saying, this kid is blossoming right before our eyes and it is very fun to watch. No doubt Tortorella loves what he is seeing from the rookie while skating between Frolov and Gaborik on the first line.
The defense in this game was horrendous for New York. Torts was fuming over their inability to clear the crease, and also at the lack of discipline. Some of those calls were questionable, but the bottom line is that you cannot afford to take such a large number of penalties against a skilled club like the Lightning. It cost the Rangers big time tonight.
The Rangers will be off for Thanksgiving tomorrow, but will pick up on Friday when they visit the Florida Panthers. A big bounce back effort will be needed there because this team should desperately want to finish the month of November strong. They have played too well over the past few weeks to ruin it against teams like the Panthers.