The New York Rangers didn’t put up much of a fight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the NHL’s best team didn’t have to exert much effort in the second half of a game which ended as a 5-3 victory in their favor. Tampa clearly showed why it is one of the league’s best teams, and a Stanley Cup contender. The Rangers clearly showed that they are a team in transition, and the last two games have shown why the three game win streak through western Canada was unsustainable.
A pair of third period goals by Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes technically made this game close, but it was a game they didn’t deserve to win.
Cedric Paquette scored his third goal of the season after putting home a rebound off a hard shot by Chris Kunitz that couldn’t be corralled by Henrik Lundqvist. At the 7:50 mark of the first Adam Erne made it 2-0. Sam Rosen saw the way the game was going, and the timing of the second goal was simply priceless.
Peak Sam jinx... can’t help but laugh pic.twitter.com/1x69MXfzqm— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 9, 2018
When the full 20:00 was up, Tampa had two goals and 21 shots. The Rangers finished the period with five shots, although at one point Tampa was out-shooting the Rangers 20 to 1.
lawyer: what proof do you have that my client Henrik Lundqvist had motive to murder his teammates?— DL (@davelozo) March 9, 2018
The second period started the same as the first, but this time it only took the Lightning 1:53 to increase their lead as Anthony Cirelli picked up his second goal of his NHL career.
At the 7:10 mark Ryan Spooner picked up his second goal as a Ranger with Hayes picking up the primary assist and Jesper Fast picking up the secondary assist.
From that point on the Lightning took control, and Lundqvist was chased after giving up a goal to Chris Kunitz.
It was his fourth goal after facing 31 shots, and Alain Vigneault decided enough was enough. All in all, 31 shots through a period and a half was a lot of work, but then again it could have been worse, like the back-to-back games in which he faced 50 shots out west.
31 shots later just over midway through the game & there's a goalie change pic.twitter.com/NoJXck4FJW— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 9, 2018
Tyler Johnson picked up a goal at the 17:30 mark of the period, and from that point on Alexandar Georgiev was perfect finishing with 13 saves on 14 shots faced.
In the third period the Rangers out shot Tampa 10 to 9, with Zuccarello picking up his 11th goal of the season on an assist by Spooner. Hayes also got his 19th after deflecting a shot from Rob O’Gara, his first point as a Ranger, and Spooner picked up his second assist and third point of the night.
The Rangers ended the game with three goals on 30 shots, and it was another multi-point game by Ryan Spooner. Since joining the Rangers he’s tallied two goals and eight assists for 10 points in six games played.
Here’s a look at how both sides played 5v5, a game that was clearly dominated by Tampa Bay.
The major story of the game involved the loss of Chris Kreider. In the first period Kreider took a hit from Jake Dotchin, and he was held out the remainder of the game for precautionary reasons.
Kreider not out for second period, not sure what the issue is yet. Was hit earlier by Dotchin in 1st period. pic.twitter.com/2XxnX5yoAG— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 9, 2018
OFFICIAL: Chris Kreider (precautionary) will not return.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 9, 2018
During the post game, Vigneault said Kreider took a hit to the head, and although he passed testing, the medical staff wanted didn’t want to press their luck.
Vigneault said Kreider took a hit to the head and passed testing but the medical staff didn't want to take any chances.— Justin Tasch (@J_Tasch) March 9, 2018
It makes perfect sense when you consider Kreider is just coming back after being sidelined for 24 games with a blood clot. At this point there is no reason to take unnecessary risks, or play players more than absolutely needed. The Rangers need to ice a team the rest of the way, but the worse thing that could happen would be someone getting hurt in garbage time.
On the note, given how things went on Thursday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Georgiev get the start on Saturday vs. the Panthers. Furthermore, Georgiev should be playing as much as he can the rest of the way because this is a lost season, and Lundqvist has been worked enough already. It is also more important to see what the team has in Georgiev.
The Rangers are off on Friday, and will get back to work Saturday night vs. the Panthers at 7:00 p.m.