The Lightning are in the playoffs. Obviously, more than the game itself between the Lightning and Rangers, that was the most important development from this evening. Carolina’s shootout win over Boston stamped a postseason ticket for the Lightning. The Bolts will finish either second or third in the Atlantic Division. Any combination of two points gained by the Lightning in their final two regular season games or not gained by Detroit in the Red Wings’ final three regular season games will give the Lightning second place and home ice advantage in the first round.
As for this game between the Lightning and Rangers, the Lightning surrendered a 2-0 lead and, for only the third time this season, lost a game in regulation that they led after two periods. It’s true that the Lightning struggled to deal with a Rangers’ momentum surge during a 15-minute span from the second half of the second period into the early part of the third. It’s also true that the Lightning squandered a number of power play chances in the first half of the game, opportunities that could have given them an insurmountable lead.
But still, there was a lot to like about the Lightning’s game. They thoroughly dominated the first period and, while not as decisively, also carried play in the first half of the second period. Then, after the Rangers had grabbed their 3-2 lead, the Lightning pushed back in the final 15 minutes of the game and again generated a number of good scoring chances.
So ultimately, there were two big reasons why the Rangers won. First, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist had an incredible night. He made a multitude of fantastic saves on Grade-A scoring chances. In the first half of the game, his saves kept his team within striking distance. In the third, his stops preserved the Rangers lead. Second, when the Rangers had their 15 minutes of momentum, they were able to score three goals. Two came on laser shots from Derek Stepan into the top of the net. The third was on a Chris Kreider breakaway.
A blown lead resulting in a regulation loss is not a positive. But aside from that fact, there were positives for the Lightning. Compared to Monday’s loss to the Islanders, the Lightning cleaned up their rush coverage. They did yield the breakaway to Kreider, but that was the only odd-man rush the Lightning allowed all game. They battled hard in this contest, one they had to play without Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan (as well as Anton Stralman and Steven Stamkos, of course). The Triplets line was dynamic – they combined for 13 shots and were dangerous throughout the night.
The bottom line is this – if not for Lundqvist, the Lightning might have been up, 6-0, after the first 30 minutes. That’s how decisively they outplayed the Rangers in the first half of the game. But Lundqvist was a difference-maker and, in rallying for a win, his teammates took advantage of the opportunity he provided them.
Now that the Lightning have clinched a berth, they’ll look to secure second place. But they also want to ensure that Hedman and Callahan are completely healthy when the playoffs begin next week. It’ll be interesting to see if the Lightning choose to rest any players during the final two regular season games, particularly if Detroit loses on Wednesday to Philadelphia.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Lundqvist’s saves on Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat during a second period Lightning power play.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Henrik Lundqvist – Rangers. 39 saves for win.
2.Derek Stepan – Rangers. Two goals and assist.
3.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Assist.