If you listened to Joe Micheletti, he’d have you believe Henrik Lundqvist was the biggest reason the Rangers won in Tampa. Lundqvist was solid making 37 saves including 15 in a busy third period. For once, it wasn’t about the play of the goalie. But rather the offense. The Rangers scored four times including three power play goals. That highlighted a 4-3 win over the Lightning Bolts to get back to Bettman sea level (19-19-2).
The power play was the story. Astonishingly, it went a perfect 3 for 3 converting every chance thanks to some crafty playmaking and finishing. Mats Zuccarello had a PPG and two assists. Chris Kreider scored his team-leading 10th and Derick Brassard set up two of the three. Benoit Pouliot continued his resurgence scoring what proved to be the game-winner- extending a career best point streak to seven. Ryan McDonagh recorded two assists.
”Hank was our best player,” Zuccarello praised of his goalie. ”He played really well for us. They had numerous chances, and we were a little bit nervous there in the third period.”
It all added up to an important road victory following a tough defeat at Washington. They couldn’t score enough in a 3-2 loss to the Caps. But the Rangers found a way to solve Tampa backup Anders Lindback four times on 29 shots. Maybe there’s a reason he doesn’t start. Ben Bishop’s owned us but it was a back to back for the Lightning. That benefited the cause with a nice offensive performance. Rick Nash even scored ending an eight-game drought with a sweet finish off a Derek Stepan feed 4:30 in. Stepan made the defensive play and had the vision to dish across for Nash for a tap in.
The Lightning came back getting the next two. Rookie Tyler Johnson finished off his 10th on the power play from Teddy Purcell and Valtteri Filppula. Ondrej Palat got to a Radko Gudas rebound and beat Lundqvist upstairs putting the hosts in front. But the Rangers responded on the ensuing power play when Zuccarello’s centering feed for Pouliot went off a Tampa skate and in for his ninth. The tying goal came with 1:35 left in the opening frame. A timely fashion. That’s the kind of year Zuke is having.
The Blueshirts continued to roll thanks to special teams. Zuccarello perfectly set up a cruising Kreider, who walked in and beat Lindback with a backhand deke for a 3-2 lead at 4:35 of the second. The nifty passing continued. After Zuccarello skated with the puck drawing two defenders, he made a nice cross-ice feed to a trailer Brassard, who quickly fed Pouliot in front for his seventh. Such playmaking hasn’t been common. But whenever they have success on the man-advantage, it’s usually the second unit that produces. Good thing Alain Vigneault had them out more often.
To their credit, the Rangers didn’t take many penalties only getting nabbed twice. However, they did go back to an old formula in the third to get the win. Rely on Hank. Aside from allowing a fancy finish by Fippula on a neat deflection that cut the margin to 4-3 with 12:46 left, Lundqvist kept the puck out of the net. He made some big saves throughout including a highlight two pad sequence late in the second. Appreciative teammates rewarded him with the Broadway Hat.
”A game like this definitely helps you to work on your positioning and a lot of different things, so I’m pleased with the win and the way I played,” a happier Lundqvist said.
”He played a real strong game, gave us a chance to win, especially in the third when they had a real strong push and they were tough to handle,” Vigneault supported. ”He had some huge saves to make, and he did.”
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Benoit Pouliot, NYR (7th of season, 2 SOG, 3 hits in 14:20-a different player)
2nd Star-Ryan McDonagh, NYR (2 assists, 2 blocked shots in 32 big shifts)
1st Star-Mats Zuccarello, NYR (PPG-9th, 2 assists-makes the Ranger offense go)
Notes: In his debut rookie D Conor Allen took 22 shifts playing 15:37. Wearing number 37, he didn’t look out of place demonstrating solid skating like training camp. No real glaring mistakes. He finished minus-one with two shots. … Anton Stralman is expected back Tuesday. … As a team, NYR blocked 15 shots with Michael Del Zotto and John Moore each sharing the lead with three. … Brad Richards was big on faceoffs finishing 14 and 6. The Rangers went 31 and 29.