TAMPA -- If, as the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold, the New York Rangers served up some revenge on ice Saturday night when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Rangers rallied for three third-period goals to get their first win against the Lightning since April 2, 2010. Tampa Bay swept all four games against New York -- and former Lightning coach John Tortorella -- last season.
It looked like the Lightning might make it five in a row when they took a 2-1 lead into the third period. But a goal by Artem Anisimov tied the game at 6:16, and Derek Stepan put the Rangers ahead for good with 3:19 remaining to play when he beat goaltender Mathieu Garon on a rebound from the slot after a shot by Ryan McDonagh. The defenseman added his second assist when he muscled Steven Stamkos off the puck and fed former Lightning star Brad Richards for an empty-netter with 26 seconds remaining.
"Our battle level was really high tonight," Stepan said after the Rangers' fifth consecutive win. "That was a big part of our success."
The Lightning grabbed a quick lead when Steve Downie fired a long slap shot that beat Henrik Lundqvist just 84 seconds into the game. That lead held up until former Lightning forward Ruslan Fedotenko scored his fourth goal of the season when he banged a pass from Richards past Garon at 6:24 of the second period to get the Rangers even.
Tampa Bay grabbed the lead again with 2:18 left in the second period when Tom Pyatt scored his second goal of the season, beating Lundqvist with a shot from the left circle. Lundqvist, making his 25th consecutive start against the Lightning, finished with 24 saves. Garon allowed three goals while facing 35 shots.
Richards, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of the Lightning when they won the Stanley Cup in 2004, took over the Rangers team lead in points with 22, one more than Marian Gaborik, who was kept off the scoresheet.
Tortorella, who won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach and led Tampa Bay to the Cup in '04, recalled the situation when Richards' was traded away from Tampa Bay to Dallas by previous ownership in 2008 -- he signed with New York as a free agent this summer.
"The people that moved him had no clue," Tortorella said. "I was in meetings, I watched it happen and I think they jammed it to him. Brad, I know, respects the group that is here now, but with how he was handled, I don't think he's unhappy about getting a win here tonight."
The third-period comeback was the first win this season for the Rangers (15-5-3) when trailing after two periods and was their 12th win in their last 14 games.
The frustration and inconsistency continue for the Lightning (11-12-2), which they lost a third consecutive game for the first time this season. Tampa Bay has dropped seven of its last 10.
"We wasted a game here," coach Guy Boucher said. "We had the advantage 2-1 in the third period and we got soft and we give away a goal. There's no excuse for that.
"It's a question of urgency, reliability, sticking with the plan. It's not there. D-zone faceoff and everybody's supposed to know their jobs – we've done it the rest of the game- all of a sudden, we got a guy alone on our net and there's absolutely no reason for that. It's two mistakes that can't happen."
Stamkos was credited with an assist on Downie's goal, extending his scoring streak to six games and Nate Thompson and Teddy Purcell earned assists on Pyatt's goal. For Thompson, the assist snapped a 15-game scoreless streak. Dana Tyrell also earned an assist on Pyatt's goal.
The Rangers head home after sweeping a two-game trip to Carolina and Tampa Bay. They will try for the 2,500th win in franchise history when Toronto comes to Madison Square Garden on Monday. The Lightning visit the Garden on Thursday for what will be their third road game in four nights -- Tampa Bay is 4-8-2 away from the St. Pete Times Forum.
For Boucher and his player, the flight to Ottawa, where they play Monday night, will include some serious reflection on a game that got away.
"It's 2-1 and we're beating one of the top teams in the League," Boucher said, "We're doing fine and we waste it."