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Lightning overtake Rangers to boost playoff push

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 2:28 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Lightning overtake Rangers to boost playoff push
The Tampa Bay Lightning are playing so well at home that they can win even when spotting the best team in the Eastern Conference a two-goal lead.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are playing so well at home that they can win even when spotting the best team in the Eastern Conference a two-goal lead.

The Bolts did just that on Friday night, allowing the New York Rangers to jump ahead by two goals less than three minutes into the second period. But they got one back in the second period and tied it early in the third on a goal by Teddy Purcell. NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos gave the Bolts a lead midway through the period.

Brandon Dubinsky's late goal forced OT, but Ryan Malone beat Henrik Lundqvist 1:58 into overtime for the win, moving Tampa Bay within four points of eighth-place Winnipeg with their third straight win overall and fifth in a row at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

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"You're always peeking at the standings," Malone said. "But it's out of our control. We dug ourselves a hole early on this season and we can only get ourselves out by winning games."

The Toronto Maple Leafs didn't play Friday, but they made plenty of news by changing coaches: GM Brian Burke fired Ron Wilson and replaced him with Randy Carlyle -- his coach in Anaheim when the two led the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup.

With nine games on the schedule Saturday, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Friday's action:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

New York Rangers (89 points after Friday's 4-3 overtime loss at Tampa Bay) rarely loses after taking an early lead. But in their second game in as many nights, New York couldn't hold on to a 2-0 advantage and had to settle for a single point. The Rangers, who host Boston on Sunday afternoon, (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN2, RDSI), lost for just the fourth time in 33 games this season when scoring first (29-1-3).

Boston (79 points) has a pair of afternoon games this weekend against New York teams. The Bruins host the Islanders on Saturday before visiting Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Florida (72 points) had a day off to recuperate after being blasted 7-0 in Winnipeg on Thursday. The Panthers are home against Nashville on Saturday.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (79 points) had a second day off Friday before meeting the Avalanche in Denver on Saturday. The Penguins are 6-0-2 on the road against the Western Conference this season.

Philadelphia (77 points) had the first of two off-days before visiting Washington on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). The Flyers will be without forward James van Riemsdyk, who will need surgery next week on his broken left foot and will miss at least a month. He was injured blocking a shot on Thursday.

New Jersey (77 points after Friday's 5-0 win at Washington) played one of its best games of the season to jump over Ottawa into sixth place. Zach Parise had a hat trick, Johan Hedberg breezed to a shutout and the Devils terminated their four-game losing streak. Parise went off in the second period after being crunched, but was back on the bench and played briefly in the third period; coach Peter DeBoer said he could have played more if needed.

Ottawa (76 points after Friday's 2-1 loss to Chicago) got an early goal by Milan Michalek and 37 saves by rookie goaltender Robin Lehner, but that wasn't enough to beat the Blackhawks at Scotiabank Place. The Senators fell to seventh in the East as they prepare to fly to Florida for Sunday's game against the Panthers.

Winnipeg (70 points) has the weekend off before Buffalo comes to the MTS Centre on Monday.

On the outside looking in:

Ryan Malone
Left Wing - TBL
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 33
SOG: 99 | +/-: -5
Washington (69 points after Friday's 5-0 loss to New Jersey) drew boos from the full house at Verizon Center after being demolished by the Devils -- the Caps were down 4-0 less than four minutes into the second period. Washington will have a day off before Philadelphia comes to town Sunday night.

Tampa Bay (66 points after Friday's 4-3 overtime win against the Rangers) looked like it was in trouble when the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second period. But the Lightning rallied to go ahead 3-2, saw the Rangers tie the game late in regulation -- but got the extra point when Ryan Malone broke a 10-game goal drought with the OT winner. The Bolts are in Carolina on Saturday.

Buffalo (66 points) takes a 5-0-2 streak into Vancouver for a game on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET, CBC).

Toronto (65 points) hopes the change in coaches will make a difference beginning Saturday night against the last-place Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC). The Leafs bring a 1-9-1 slump to the Bell Centre and have dropped to 12th place in the East.


WESTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

Vancouver (90 points) gets a rare visit from Buffalo on Saturday -- but some of the faces in the white uniforms will be familiar ones. The teams made one of the biggest deals on deadline day, and young center Cody Hodgson will be wearing a Sabres uniform when he takes the ice against the NHL's top team.

Detroit (89 points after Friday's 6-0 win against Minnesota) didn't miss Nicklas Lidstrom or Pavel Datsyuk against the battered Wild. Jimmy Howard had to make only 19 saves for his sixth shutout of the season as the Wings dominated from start to finish. The competition figures to be tougher when Chicago comes to Joe Louis Arena on Sunday (4 p.m. ET; NHL Network-US).

Phoenix (75 points) had a day off before Columbus comes to Jobing.com Arena on Saturday.

The next five:

St. Louis (87 points) wraps up a six-game trip at San Jose on Saturday. The Blues won the first four games before losing 2-0 at Vancouver on Thursday.

Nashville (81 points) had its third straight off-day. The Predators get back on the ice Saturday night in Florida.

Chicago (77 points after Friday's 2-1 win at Ottawa) got 25 saves from Ray Emery, who played in Ottawa for the first time since the Senators waived him in 2008, one year after he led the team to its only appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. Marian Hossa had his second winner in as many games.

San Jose (73 points) is wondering where its offense has gone. The Sharks enter Saturday's home game against St. Louis having scored just once in two games. Coach Todd McLellan (concussion) was on the ice at Friday's practice, but didn't meet with the media and might not be behind the bench against the Blues. Logan Couture, their top goal-scorer, took part in the team photo but didn't skate.

Kari Lehtonen
Goalie - DAL
RECORD: 25-15-4
GAA: 2.30 | SVP: 0.921
Dallas (73 points after Friday's 3-1 win at Edmonton) got its Western Canada trip off to a good start by shutting down the Oilers. Dallas' top six forwards generated only an empty-netter by Michael Ryder, but second-period goals by bottom-sixers Radek Dvorak and Tomas Vincour were more than enough for Kari Lehtonen, who lost his shutout when Sam Gagner scored with 29.4 seconds left.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (70 points)
hosts Anaheim at the Staples Center on Saturday before heading out for a tough week on the road.

Colorado (70 points)
had the day off before hosting Pittsburgh on Saturday. First-year forward Gabriel Landeskog was named Friday as the NHL's rookie of the month for February after going 7-6-13 in 12 games last month.

Calgary (69 points after Friday's 3-2 loss at Anaheim) has now lost 15 in a row at the Honda Center, and this one might have been the most painful. Alex Tanguay's goal early in the third period tied the game at 2-2, and the Flames were in good shape to get at least one point until Ryan Getzlaf hammered a slap shot past Leland Irving with 46 seconds left in regulation.

Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis