This was one of the Lightning’s most complete games of the year. They held the New York Rangers to a season-low 16 shots and dominated play for long stretches throughout the night.
During the early part of the first period, however, the Rangers were able to effective use stretch passes so that their speedy forwards could chase pucks down in the Lightning end. That strategy helped them record the first four shots of the game. But moments after Ben Bishop denied Marty St. Louis on a partial breakaway, Nikita Kucherov converted on a breakaway of his own, scoring on the first Lightning shot on goal. The Bolts extended the lead to 2-0 during a first period power play when Steven Stamkos stickhandled past a New York penalty killer and slid a pass in the low slot to Ryan Callahan, who buried the shot.
The one area of the Lightning’s game that got better after the first period was how cleanly they got pucks out of their own zone. But even when they failed to clear pucks in the opening 20 minutes, they didn’t allow the Rangers to capitalize – they were very effective at blocking shots and preventing pucks from getting to dangerous areas.
St. Louis scored a power play goal in the opening minute of the second period and soon after, the Rangers received two more power plays, overlapping by 32 seconds. But the Lightning killed off the five-on-three and maintained their 2-1 lead. Once back to five-on-five play, the Lightning took control.
In an adjustment to their first period play, the Lightning forwards started closing quickly on New York defensemen before they had a chance to execute a stretch pass and the Rangers were no longer able to spring any of their fast forwards off the rush.
Consequently, New York’s offense struggled to generate looks. Following their five-on-three, the Rangers posted only three additional shots on Bishop in the period (and two of those came during one solitary dangerous sequence). The Lightning, on the other hand, forechecked well and repeatedly held pucks in the Rangers zone. They regained a two-goal lead when Valtteri Filppula intercepted a Rick Nash outlet pass and sprung Stamkos on a breakaway. Stamkos finished a forehand deke to make it 3-1 with just under six minutes left in the period. The Lightning thought they had another tally when Vlad Namestnikov stole the puck in the offensive zone, took it to the net and Jonathan Drouin put in the rebound. But the goal was correctly disallowed because of Alex Killorn making contact with Henrik Lundqvist. Undaunted, Killorn scored off the rush later in the frame.
Up 4-1 entering the third, the Lightning thoroughly dominated the final 20 minutes. They moved pucks effectively in all three zones, repeatedly getting pucks deep in the Rangers end. Despite mixing up their forward lines, the Rangers didn’t generate any threatening scoring chances in the period. Callahan finished the scoring by netting his second of the night after Stamkos intercepted the puck on the forecheck.
When the Lightning play the way they did in this game, they are tough to beat. It’s not easy to win as a road team at Madison Square Garden. Not only did the Lightning win there, they were decisively the better team on Monday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Stamkos’ second period goal, giving the Lightning a 3-1 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Goal and two assists.
2.Ryan Callahan – Lightning. Two goals.
3.Tyler Johnson/Valtteri Filppula – Lightning. Both with two assists.