The Rangers finally lost a game. It came against the hated Lightning by a score of 2-1. It came on just an awful sequence. Valtteri Filppula scored a shorthanded goal with 1:05 left in regulation. He finished off a 2-on-1 from J.T. Brown taking full advantage of a miscue between Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh inside the Tampa blue line.
Instead of pushing the puck down low, Stepan forced a bad pass to McDonagh which he mishandled. Filppula forced McDonagh into the turnover pushing the puck to Brown who broke in and was able to dish across a back checking McDonagh for a Filppula finish past a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist.
It was a excruciating loss due to the opponent. Against any other team, I wouldn’t mind. On a night Tampa stifled their offense, Dominic Moore supplied a tying goal with 6:17 remaining. Off a strong Jesper Fast fore-check, Moore was able to steal a puck from Anton Stralman, who had the puck hop on him. Moore made a nice turnaround shot finally beating Ben Bishop to tie the score.
It could’ve been a different outcome. After a strong penalty kill of a weak interference minor on McDonagh, Kevin Hayes drew another odd interference call on Brian Boyle with 1:26 left. What should’ve at least resulted in a point instead turned into zilch.
”We spent a lot of time in their end,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. ”Didn’t get enough for it. At the end of the night, this game is about two plays with the puck. Two mistakes that we made, and they made us pay for it.”
The first play he’s referring to was a Keith Yandle turnover which led directly to Ranger killer Alex Killorn beating Lundqvist from way out. With no pressure on him, Yandle attempted a poor pass up the middle which was intercepted by Filppula at the blue line. That allowed Killorn to walk out and fire home his third at 14:47 of the first period.
The second was the mishap between Stepan and McDonagh on the power play. A no no that late. Stepan deserves more blame because he forced a pass which handcuffed McDonagh. Brown and Filppula did the rest.
”It doesn’t matter how many games you win, when you play you want to win every game,” a disappointed Lundqvist said after finishing with 26 saves. ”This one, the way we lose, it’s extremely frustrating.”
The Rangers had a chance to match a franchise record best 10-game winning streak reached both in 1939-40 and ’72-73. It didn’t happen. They were held to 14 shots through two periods against the defensive minded Lightning led by Victor Hedman and Stralman.
Bishop also had a good game making some key stops including denying Chris Kreider on a penalty shot at 3:51 of the third preserving a one-goal lead. He also stoned Stepan twice. Bishop improved to 9-0-0 against the Rangers in the regular season.
”It’s got to turn around at some point,” Bolts coach Jon Cooper said. ”We had to get the break, and clearly that’s a big break. The first short-handed goal of the season to be a game-winner.”
His team prevailed despite missing several regulars including Ryan Callahan, Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette. That says a lot about the Lightning who have struggled due to the injuries. But they are a top team despite a 9-9-3 record which is still good enough for third in the Atlantic Division. They’ll be there next Spring.
For the Blueshirts, they now can concentrate on bouncing back with a game at Florida on Saturday. It’s no longer about a record winning streak. Just about getting back to fundamentals that’s made them such a good team.