Early in the third period of this game, Valtteri Filppula took a shot from the slot and the puck slipped through New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The puck was in the process of rolling over the goal line when Marc Staal swept it away. That play by Staal kept the score tied at two between the Lightning and Rangers. Had the puck gone in, the Lightning would have had their first lead of the night. Perhaps the rest of the third period might have unfolded differently.
Instead, a few shifts later, Dominic Moore tucked in an in-alone chance to give the Rangers their third one-goal lead of the night. Unlike the other two leads, they didn’t give this one up, adding two empty-netters to set the final at 5-2.
That Staal save/Moore GWG sequence was an important one in the game. But it doesn’t take away from this fact: the Lightning’s performance was one of their worst of the last two months.
Too often on this six-game homestand the Lightning have started slowly. It happened again in this game. They were stuck at only one shot on goal for much of the first period. Then, unlike in some of the other games, they really didn’t elevate their play as the game progressed. Scoring chances were limited. Passing wasn’t crisp. Their overall urgency level wasn’t high. And they handed the Rangers three goals. It’s true that Dan Boyle alertly pinched from the right point on the first goal, Mats Zuccarello made a nice shot on the second and Moore had a nifty finish on the third. But all three plays were made possible by crucial Lightning mistakes. They lost coverage off a defensive zone faceoff on the first, backed in to their own zone unnecessarily on the second and committed three unforced d-zone turnovers on one shift on the third. The Lightning have been one of the best defensive five-on-five teams all season, but that part of their game hurt them against the Rangers.
This six-game homestand was an opportunity for the team to make a move up the standings. Instead, the Lightning have posted only five out of 10 points through the first five games of the homestand. They’ll look for a crisper performance on Saturday when the homestand ends against Minnesota.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Staal’s play in swiping the puck off the goal line, preserving the 2-2 tie.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Dominic Moore – Rangers. GWG, assist.
2.Valtteri Filppula – Lightning. Assist.
3.Marc Staal – Rangers. Saved goal for Rangers.