The New York Rangers were able to hold on tonight and defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-3. Henrik Lundqvist absolutely stood on his head in the third period, and was able to reel in a win for the Rangers. I think it's safe to say that Henrik has finally found his game once again, and he put on a King-like performance in Tampa Bay tonight. Mats Zuccarello also had a big night as he picked up a power play goal late in the first period, and assisted on two other power play goals later on in the game.
The Rangers actually had a very good start to this game, and came out with some good jump to get on the Lightning early. Just four minutes into the game, Derek Stepan was able to pick off a loose puck in the offensive zone, and quickly found Rick Nash wide open on the backdoor. All Nash really had to do was tap the puck home as Stepan made a perfect tape to tape pass, and was able to beat Anders Lindback for the 1-0 lead. That goal was also a huge boost for two guys who were struggling as of late, and it seemed to ignite later on in the game.
Six minutes later, the Rangers were looking a tie game once again as Tyler Johnson chipped in a power play goal to the side of Henrik Lundqvist. Michael Del Zotto was caught chasing while a man down, and it basically left John Moore helpless with two Lightning players to cover. Teddy Purcell eventually made a great pass across to Johnson who was wide open on the far side, and Lundqvist really didn't have much a chance on the play.
A few minutes later, things went bad to worse for the Rangers as Ondrej Palat was able to cash in a rebound in the high slot, and sniped it over Lundqvist's shoulder. The goal was a result of a faceoff loss by Brad Richards, and Michael Del Zotto caught a little bit flatfooted off of the draw, which resulted in Palat pouncing on the rebound.
With some work ahead of them, the Rangers caught a lucky break late in the first period as Valtteri Filppula was whistled down for playing the puck with his glove off the faceoff. Shortly after the penalty, Mats Zuccarello wound up find a seam at the side of the net, and banked the puck off of the defenseman in front to knot up the game at 2-2.
The first period was both good and bad for the Rangers as they started off red hot, cooled off in the middle part, and came on strong again at the end. Looking at the second period, the Ranger absolutely dominated, and were able to dictate a majority of the play in the offensive zone. As a result, they were able to pick up two more power play goals in the second, and were able to carry a two goal lead heading into the third period.
Chris Kreider picked up the first goal as he received a beautiful feed from Mats Zuccarello in stride, and made a nifty move to his backhand to slip the puck around Lindback. With that goal, Chris Kreider took sole possession of the team lead in goals, and the first player to reach double digits for goals. About three minutes later, Benoit Pouliot picked up yet another goal with the man-advantage and now has a five game point streak going for himself. Ever since being a healthy scratch, he has been playing lights out for the Rangers, and has been tremendous in front of the net.
Both Zuccarello and Derick Brassard made picture perfect passes on this goal, and were able to catch the Lightning chasing a little bit. Zuccarello found Brassard on the cross-ice pass, and then it was Brassard who quickly dished the puck off to Pouliot who was wide open in front. Again, all Pouliot really had to do was put his stick on the ice, and it was an easy goal. Great puck movement by the Rangers, and an even better power play were able to get them two points tonight.
In the third period, as expected, the Lightning came out looking for blood, and absolutely dominated the first 15 minutes of the third period. Luckily for the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist played out of his mind, and was able to make a few jaw dropping saves to keep the Rangers up by two goals.
However, just eight minutes into the final period, Valtteri Filppula was able to redirect a puck in the high slot, and it found it's way over the blocker hand of Lundqvist. While it was a beautiful play by the Lightning, Carl Hagelin lost his man on the back check, which allowed Filppula to sneak in undetected to get his stick on the puck. In the closing five minutes, the Rangers were able to rally together, and closed out the game to bring home two points in Tampa.
Conor Allen also saw a few shifts in the closing minutes there, and he finished the night with 15:47 of ice time, was a -1, and had two shots. Remember, tonight was Allen's NHL debut, and you would have never known it by the way he played. He made some smart decisions in his own end, and even made a few confident rushes up the ice, and was able to toss a few shots on net.
At this point, I'd be perfectly fine with Allen playing over Justin Falk going forward here, as he has shown at multiple points during the game that he is ready to take that next step. With Staal and Stralman likely coming back next game, Allen may get the short end of the stick, but he's definitely something to look forward in the very near future.
With that said, tomorrow will be an off day for the Rangers before they prepare to take on the Florida Panthers on New Year's Eve at 5:00 PM.