Well, who didn’t see that coming? The Rangers aren’t in Tampa’s class. So, they got struck by a Lightning Bolt in a predictable 6-3 loss. It came in the form of a Steven Stamkos hat trick. He scored numbers 13, 14 and 15 to highlight the Lightning home win. Ryan McDonagh also scored to add further insult to injury.
There will be nights like this. Especially against quality competition. There’s a reason Tampa Bay is now a NHL best 24-7-1 with 49 points. They are a handful. Even with veteran backup Louis Domingue filling in for Andrei Vasilevskiy, it doesn’t matter. Not the way the Bolts score goals. They have so many weapons. What’s gonna happen when they face the Maple Leafs in a all too likely Conference Semifinal due to the silly playoff format?
Stamkos got two of the three goals on the power play. That’s where he’s always been most dangerous. He possesses that lethal right-handed one-timer from the off wing in the circle that can do damage. It’s fun to watch if it’s not against your team. So, after Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, it was bad news when Marc Staal took down Nikita Kucherov, who had a step coming out of his own zone.
What came next was the patented Victor Hedman pass across for that filthy Stamkos one-timer by Henrik Lundqvist. J.T. Miller picked up the secondary assist. To their credit, the Rangers played a good first period by getting two of the three goals. The second again came from Hayes on a play created by him off diligent checking. He pressured the puck behind the net for a steal. Then went to the dirty area to deposit Jimmy Vesey’s loose change for his second of the game. He could’ve had a hat trick if he looked shot more.
A Neal Pionk tripping minor resulted in another Stamkos power play goal from Hedman and Brayden Point at 6:19 of the second. That tied the game. At that point, it was 2-2 against the league’s best. Given their track record away from MSG, you take it. McDonagh made it 3-2 from Point and Kucherov. I didn’t see that one. I was out at a friend’s with Justin. I didn’t miss anything. The Rangers had their usual second period on the road, getting outscored 2-0 and outshot 16-5. Through two periods, shots were 29-13.
They didn’t give up because there’s no quit in this group under coach David Quinn. It stayed a one-goal game for a bit in the third. However, a rare Fredrik Claesson misplay in his own end led directly to a Anthony Cirelli unassisted goal. Claesson lost control of the puck, resulting in Cirelli taking a pass from Erik Cernak (who???) and quickly going forehand deke on a surprised Lundqvist. That made it 4-2 with 9:43 left.
On the very next shift, we flipped back from watching the Baseball Winter Meetings just in time to see Stamkos one-time home his third for the hat trick. That put it out of reach. It’s funny that the Lightning captain has become an afterthought due to Point and Kucherov. He just isn’t. The problem is you can’t stop everyone. Not when you take bad penalties like the Rangers took.
Jesper Fast did cut it to 5-3 on a Filip Chytil set up with 2:26 to go. But it just teased the ending. Hayes passed up a open shot with Lundqvist pulled. He passed for Pionk, who couldn’t keep the puck in. It was a low percentage play. Not long after, Cirelli backhanded a empty netter for the final margin with 39 seconds left.
There isn’t much more to add. Though we did find out Kevin Shattenkirk got hurt. Oh great. It could be more missed time for the free agent bust who came home. Why didn’t they let the Devils have him? Sorry Hasan. I’m tired of seeing him do nothing for the money he makes. Oh well.
The good news is they have off until Friday when Arizona visits MSG without Antti Raanta. I won’t say anything else about it. It’s too aggravating.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd 🌟 Anthony Cirelli, Bolts (2 goals-7th, 8th)
2nd 🌟 Kevin Hayes, NYR (2 goals-6th, 7th, 5 shots, +2 in 20:25)
1st 🌟 Steven Stamkos, Bolts (hat trick-13, 14,15 including 2 PPG’s)