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Power play sparks Rangers past Lightning

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- Mats Zuccarello had a goal and two assists and the New York Rangers converted on all three power plays en route to a 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Sunday night.

Rick Nash, Chris Kreider and Benoit Pouliot also scored for the Rangers (19-19-2), who broke a 2-2 tie with two goals in the second period. When Tampa Bay began to surge in the third (the Lightning outshot New York 16-6), Henrik Lundqvist stood tall and finished with 37 saves.

"Lundqvist played a real strong game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He gave us a chance to win, especially in the third when they had a real strong push and they were tough to handle. He had some huge saves to make and he did."

Tampa Bay (23-12-4) has dropped back-to-back games on home ice; the Lightning suffered a 2-1 shootout loss against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Lightning and Anders Lindback made 25 saves.

But the penalty-killers came up empty, allowing three power-play goals in as many tries.

"Sometimes you lay a rotten egg and if you're going to do that, you hope the whole team does it together, and that's what we did," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Filppula tipped Teddy Purcell's shot past Lundqvist at 8:14 of the third period to cut the lead to one goal, but the Lightning couldn't find the equalizer.

A combination of careless passing and poor penalty-killing cost the Lightning two goals in the second period. With defenseman Dmitry Korobov in the box for holding, Krieder took a pass from Zuccarello and beat Lindback at 4:35.

"We've been moving the puck around and getting chances and tonight it was the difference and the power play did that," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "We needed the two points."

Pouliot gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead at 7:51 when he forced the puck into the Lightning net from just outside the crease. It was New York's third power-play goal in as many opportunities.

"That was the old 'work smarter, not harder,' " Cooper said. "We worked hard, but we didn't work very smart. It was painful to watch. I don't think I've seen us mismanage pucks more in 39 games than we did tonight. That was extremely disappointing to see the way we managed the puck in the first two periods. Ultimately, it cost us the game."

The Rangers opened the scoring 4:30 into the game. Derek Stepan intercepted a Radko Gudas clearing pass at the Lightning blue line and sent a cross-ice pass to Nash, who beat Lindback for his seventh goal of the season.

Johnson answered for the Lightning when he flipped a feed from Purcell past Lundqvist. The score came with J.T. Miller in the penalty box for hooking and was Johnson's 10th goal of the season.

Palat put the Lightning up briefly when he collected the rebound of a Gudas shot from inside the blue line and wristed the puck into a wide-open net to Lundqvist's right at 16:05.

Zuccarello made it 2-2 at 18:25 when his pass from behind the goal line deflected off Gudas in front of the net and bounced in. The power-play goal was Zuccarello's ninth of the season.

"When the penalty kill has gone afoul, it has gone afoul badly," Cooper said. "That's the third time this year that we've given up a three-spot in the game. It doesn't happen very often, but if we are going to stink, we're going to stink."

Pouliot's goal extended his point streak to seven games; Zuccarello now has nine points in his past seven games.

"Both those guys were having a real hard time with their game," Vigneault said of Pouliot and Zuccarello. "Both sat out, both didn't complain to the world about being sat out. What they did was they rolled their sleeves and they got to work and even though I thought they were both working real hard, they both analyzed their game and found a way to get back on track and both players are very useful players to our team right now."

Korobov recorded an assist on Filppula's third-period goal for his first NHL point in his third game. He was reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League after the game.

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