Obviously, the big storyline from this game, other than the fact that the Lightning won it, was Brayden Point scoring two goals on his 21st birthday. It was his first two-goal game in the NHL and both tallies were critical. The first one tied the game less than two minutes after the Rangers had opened the scoring. The second broke a 2-2 tie with 6:39 left in the third period and turned out to be the game-winner.
There were other components to this victory. Peter Budaj was sensational early in this game, denying a multitude of New York scoring chances during the opening period. Thanks to Budaj, the Lightning were able to escape the first period in a 1-1 tie. The Lightning's problems in the first were widespread. Their defensive awareness was poor, so they allowed open looks to New York. Their puck management wasn't good and their resulting turnovers fueled the Rangers attack. Furthermore, the Lightning didn't create much activity in the New York end. Other than Point's power play goal and one other look for Byron Froese, the Lightning didn't test Antti Raanta.
The Bolts knew their play needed to improve and their game got markedly better as the game progressed. Their neutral zone play, both with and without the puck, tightened up. As a result, the Rangers didn't have as many chances off the rush. Their coverage in front of Budaj was solid, so they blocked lots of shots and denied the Rangers prime scoring looks. And because their puck management improved, they spent more time in the offensive zone. Their forecheck created problems for the Rangers - the forechecking of Gabriel Dumont and J.T. Brown started the sequence that led to Dumont's goal off a tip in the second period. The Lightning had far fewer miscues in the middle stanza, but one of them - a d-zone turnover - led to Michael Grabner's goal that tied the game at two.
The third period was the Lightning's best of the night. Other than a Rick Nash chance in the opening minute off a faceoff win and a Jimmy Vesey deflection two minutes later, the Lightning effectively shut down the Rangers attack. They had most of the puck possession and made the Rangers work hard in the New York defensive zone. Eventually, the Lightning retook the lead. Off the rush, Point carried the puck into the Rangers end and fed Ondrej Palat at the left circle. Point skated to the front of the net and deflected in Palat's centering feed.
Up 3-2, the Lightning had the more dangerous chances down the stretch, but Raanta denied looks for Andrej Sustr and Jonathan Drouin to keep his team within a goal. But the Rangers never got the game tied again.
The Lightning matched a season-low with just 16 shots on goal. But this was a game in which the low shot total didn't necessarily reflect negligible puck possession. In the second and third periods, the Lightning did enjoy some long offensive zone shifts. It's just that those shifts often didn't result in many - or any - shots on goal. Still, that good work kept the Rangers attack quiet.
In this game, the Rangers were the ones finishing up a back-to-back. On Tuesday in Ottawa, the Lightning will be the ones playing their second game in as many nights against a Senators team that hasn't played since Saturday. The Lightning may be without Vladdy Namestnikov, who aggravated his earlier injury and had to leave the Rangers game after the second period. So it'll be another challenge for the Lightning - we'll see if they can respond to it successfully, as they've regularly done in recent weeks.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Brayden Point - Lightning. On his 21st birthday, scored two goals.
- Peter Budaj - Lightning. 26 saves for first win with the Lightning.
- Gabriel Dumont - Lightning. Goal.