TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning gave their playoff hopes another boost while spoiling Henrik Lundqvist's 30th birthday.
The Bolts beat Lundqvist for the sixth time in their last seven meetings when Ryan Malone scored 1:58 into overtime as the Lightning beat the New York Rangers 4-3 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Friday night.
Malone beat Lundqvist from the high slot through a screen for his 11th goal of the season and his first in 11 games, giving the Lightning their third straight win and moving Tampa Bay within four points of eighth-place Winnipeg in the race for the final playoff spot in the East.
"The tough part is every time they shoot between the legs of someone, you're always late to pick it up," Lundqvist said of the game-winner. "It was tough to lose in overtime. I felt like they made it tough for us all night."
The Rangers are almost unbeatable when they score first -- and they led 2-0 after a first-period goal by Artem Anisimov and a power-play tally early in the second by Marian Gaborik.
But the Lightning, now winners of six of their last eight, refused to roll over for the Eastern Conference leaders and their star goaltender.
"He's an incredible goaltender, maybe the best in the game right now," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of Lundqvist. "But it was pride against pride. That's what forced the overtime."
Tom Pyatt got one back Tampa Bay with his seventh of the season at 7:09 of the second period, and the Lightning tied it on a goal from Teddy Purcell at 3:37. Purcell's goal was his 18th of the season, a career high. He also had a pair of assists as he stretched his scoring streak to eight games, the longest of his career.
Steven Stamkos put Tampa Bay ahead at 10:17 with a blast from the slot that beat Lundqvist for his League-leading 45th goal of the season and matched his total for last season. Brian Lee picked up his second assist of the game on the goal, his first points as a member of the Lightning since being acquired from Ottawa on Monday.
"That was an unbelievable play by Brian Lee," Stamkos said. "He's a great defender and his offensive skills are very underrated; people just don't know a lot about him. He had it set up all the whole way. He found me in the hole and put it on my stick. That was obviously a big goal for us and I was happy to see it go in."
The Rangers weren't finished, however. As Brandon Dubinsky skated into Lightning territory, Martin St. Louis fell and Dubinsky took an unimpeded path to the faceoff circle to Mathieu Garon's right. His shot beat Garon with 3:27 remaining to play to force the overtime.
Malone made sure the Lightning got the extra point.
"This game was tough from start to finish," Lundqvist said. "Yeah we had the 2-0 lead, but I don't think we deserved the 2-0 lead. It felt like they made it tough for us all night."
Mathieu Garon finished with 16 stops and improved to 11-3-2 over his last 16 starts. Tampa Bay outshot the Rangers by a 31-19 margin.
The Rangers were playing in the second half of a back-to-back, having beaten Carolina 3-2 on Thursday in Raleigh.
"I thought we were late in a lot of plays," New York coach John Tortorella said. "We lost some battles and really struggled with our battles in the corners. The better team won tonight. The team that played better won."
Malone's winner was his third career overtime goal with the Lightning, and gave him points in five of his last six games.
"We knew they played last night," Malone said. "I don't know if they had the same jump they would have if they hadn't played last night. We tried to take advantage of that from the beginning; just try to wear them down, not turn over too many pucks in the neutral zone and throw the puck at the net and get some traffic there. I thought we did a good job and that's all we wanted."
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan missed his second consecutive game due a bruised right foot, and defenseman Michael Del Zotto sat out with a hip injury.
The game wrapped up the four-game season series between these clubs, with Tampa Bay going 2-1-1. All four games were won by the team which trailed after two periods. The Rangers are now 26-0-3 when leading after two periods, with two of the three overtime losses coming at the hands of the Lightning.
New York (41-15-7) heads home to face the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon, while Tampa Bay (30-28-6) flies to Carolina to meet the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
The good news for the Lightning, of course, is that they continue to find ways to win and steadily continue to narrow the gap between themselves and a post-season position.
"We didn't just wake up," Boucher said of the Lightning's late resurgence. "Our players have developed. It took a lot of work but now we're getting rewarded for not quitting. The shame is not in losing but in not fighting. Well, there's plenty of fight in that locker room."