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game recap

Lightning lose to Rangers but clinch playoff berth

Stepan, Kreider score for New York; Tampa Bay advances to third straight postseason

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- At least the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched a berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday because everything else that happened throughout the day felt like bad news.

The Lightning blew a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Tampa Bay, after reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, is playoff-bound for a third straight season. The Lightning were in before the final buzzer because the Boston Bruins lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I'm just really, really happy for the guys," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I know it was kind of a sour note tonight because we lost the game but ultimately we get to sit back and say, 'You know what, our season is not ending Saturday night,' and we're really excited about that."

Video: TBL@NYR: Kreider shows off speed, buries a backhand

The Lightning (45-30-5) have two games remaining to lock up second place in the Atlantic Division. They need two points. The Florida Panthers clinched first place in the division on Tuesday by virtue of their 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay's loss to the Rangers.

"For sure we wanted to make it in our hands, in our control," defenseman Jason Garrison said, "but we'll take it and now we're playing for home ice advantage so there's still lots to play for."

However, Tampa Bay may have to play its final two games without defenseman Victor Hedman and forward Ryan Callahan. Both sat out the game against the Rangers, Hedman with an upper-body injury and Callahan with a lower-body injury. They are each day-to-day.

"I can't sit here and say if they're going to be back for the rest of the regular season or not," Cooper said. "They might be. They might not be."

Video: TBL@NYR: Stepan's goals lead Rangers to 3-2 win

The Lightning were already playing without defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured left fibula) and center Steven Stamkos (surgery to repair blood clot). Neither is expected to return for the first round.

"It's a core group of guys, the guys you build your team around," Lightning forward Brian Boyle said.

The Rangers (45-26-9), who clinched their playoff berth Monday, preserved their still-slim chances to get home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round with the comeback win.

Chris Kreider scored the game-winning goal at 4:46 of the third period. He has five goals and eight points in the past six games.

Derek Stepan scored two goals and added an assist for his fifth multi-point game in the past seven. He has eight points in the past four games and 14 in the past eight.

Video: TBL@NYR: Lundqvist denies Bolts with two big stops

Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves for his 35th win of the season.

With two games remaining in the regular season, the Rangers are two points ahead of the New York Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division and three points behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins. The Islanders and Penguins also won Tuesday.

The Rangers play the Islanders at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

"The place is going to be rocking," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's going to be a good playoff atmosphere-type test for us at the end of the season. It'll be fun."

The Rangers will go through that test without defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who is out indefinitely with a hand injury. He will not play again in the regular season.

Video: TBL@NYR: Sustr puts Lightning ahead in the 1st

New York also might have to play without defenseman Dan Girardi, who was injured after getting hit into the boards by Boyle with 1:08 remaining in the third period. Girardi needed assistance to get off the ice. Boyle received a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct.

Girardi was being evaluated after the game, but Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the initial reports from the medical staff were positive.

The Rangers didn't have anything positive going on through the first half of the game.

Tampa Bay built a 2-0 lead on goals from Boyle and Andrej Sustr 6:07 into the first period, and had a 17-2 advantage in shots on goal midway through the period. The shot advantage grew to plus-17 (26-9) after Lundqvist made saves back-to-back saves on Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat on a Lighting power play at 10:08 of the second period.

Video: TBL@NYR: Palat's shot hits Boyle's stick and goes in

New York was on the penalty kill for more than 12 of the first 32 minutes in the game.

"Our start was brutal," Staal said. "I mean, we were still on the plane from the night before."

But those saves by Lundqvist seemed to ignite the Rangers. They got two quick power-play opportunities after, and Stepan scored on the second at 16:55 to cut the deficit to 2-1 going into the third period.

They started the third by killing a penalty before Stepan and Kreider scored the game-tying and eventual game-winning goals 2:13 apart.

Stepan scored on a slap shot from the right circle at 2:33. Kreider scored on a breakaway at 4:46.

"We responded well," Stepan said.

Video: Rangers come back for win, remain 3rd in Metropolitan

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