The Tampa Bay Lightning, according to Ondrej Palat, played one of their best games of the season Monday night against the New York Rangers at AMALIE Arena.
Unfortunately, their effort still wasn't enough to upend the Rangers.
Mika Zibanejad scored 3:56 into an extra frame following a scoreless 60 minutes of regulation to help New York escape Tampa with a 1-0 overtime victory. The Bolts picked up a hard-earned point but probably should have gotten two.
"It was one of those games that I thought both teams deserved a point," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought we deserved the other one. But, I say that, and then I think back to the Carolina game [March 1] and their coach probably was thinking the same thing in that game. Sometimes you get them. Sometimes you don't."
The Lightning pulled within two points of the New York Islanders for the final Wild Card in the Eastern Conference. The Bolts are tied for fifth in the Atlantic Division with Florida and one point back of fourth place Toronto as they continue to climb in the standings.
How were the Lightning able to grab a point against New York? And why didn't they get both?
We'll examine closer in 3 Things we learned from an OT loss to the Rangers.
Video: NYR@TBL: Vasilevskiy stones Buchnevich in front
1. GOALTENDER DUEL
Andrei Vasilevskiy continued to show why the organization has full faith in him as their number one goaltender with another sterling outing Monday, making 37-of-38 saves against the Rangers.
But Vasilevskiy lost his first game since taking over as the full-time starter following the trade of Ben Bishop to Los Angeles, his three-game win streak coming to a halt in the overtime defeat.
"We have full confidence in our goalies," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "Vasy's been unreal. (Budaj) came in in Pittsburgh, we weren't at our best, didn't help him a lot, but he played great for us. It feels good to have two good goaltenders going down the stretch. Vasy coming in and being number one and playing like he has is a confidence boost for everyone. (I'm) looking forward to seeing his development."
Unfortunately for Vasilevskiy, as well as he played, his counterpart on the Rangers was slightly better. Antti Raanta stopped all 38 pucks he saw to spearhead New York's win.
"We tilted the ice at times during the game, and their goalie made the saves for them," Cooper said. "When they tilted the ice on us, Vasy was making saves. Fans got their money worth tonight except for the disappointment of not getting the last point. We needed that point a heck of a lot more than they did."
Video: Cooper on Bolts overall effort in OT loss
2. PLAYOFF ATMOSPHERE
The Lightning still have 17 contests remaining in the regular season, but Monday's tilt against the Rangers certainly felt like a playoff game.
The Lightning had energy and intensity from the opening puck drop. The spirited play ramped up after Luke Witkowski and Tanner Glass got into a lengthy fight where both players delivered quite a few heavy blows and had the entire arena on its feet in appreciation.
"We were physical. We were mean," Hedman said. "A lot of credit to Luke and Glass for that tilt. That really got everybody going. It was a good matchup and it's always good games against New York. The crowd was wild. It was a good atmosphere out there. Obviously wanted to get that extra point, but you win some, you lose some. We'll take a lot of good from this."
The Lightning may not have won the game, but the way they played was certainly deserving of two points. If they can continue to put forth the effort they gave Monday throughout the remainder of the regular season, there's a good chance the Bolts will qualify for the postseason for a fourth-consecutive season.
"I think tonight was one of the best games we have played all year," Lightning forward Ondrej Palat said. "The effort was there. The energy was there. I think we played a solid 60-minute game. There were just so many chances where we didn't score, but we have to build off that. I think if we can play like that, we'll take our chances."
Video: Lightning fall in OT to Rangers
3. ONE MISTAKE ENDS IT
Monday's contest had so many twists and turns, each bounce of the puck the potential to be the turning point, the game was bound to be decided on a turnover.
Unfortunately, it was the Lightning who committed it.
Palat went screaming through the middle of the Rangers zone about three-and-a-half minutes into overtime and produced a great scoring chance but shot it wide while he was being checked from behind. As he barreled into the back boards following his all-out effort, the puck came back out to Hedman, who, under pressure, passed toward the benches thinking Jonathan Drouin was there.
But Drouin had entered the zone and was skating toward. Hedman's pass missed everybody and bounced off the boards.
Zibanejad took a pass from Ryan McDonagh to get behind everybody and score on the breakaway.
"I thought (Drouin) was over there," Hedman said after the game. "It felt like they had all their guys on one side, but it's just one of those plays you want back. I tried to make the play that was right, but obviously I've got to make sure that I have better movement, better awareness next time. But, like I said, I thought (Drouin) was over there on the side. That was a miss by me, and I take responsibility…I've got to be better in that situation."
Drouin sprinted back to try to disrupt Zibanejad, but McDonagh's stretch pass was perfectly in stride, and Zibanejad got an unimpeded chance on the break, taking his time on the setup and beating Vasilevskiy to the glove side with his shot.
"Victor had it, he tried to make a pass and we didn't get it," Cooper said. "All of a sudden now, it's a quick strike, and that's what overtime becomes. Overtime's not about creating chances. It's about capitalizing on mistakes. We made a mistake, and they capitalized. That was it."