Game 64: New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning

March 2, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; New York Rangers right wing Brandon Prust (8) defends Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Brian Lee (15) during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Rangers in overtime 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Rangers 4-3 in overtime at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Friday night.

That Rangers team from New York; they're pretty good. Coming into tonight's game leading their division...and the entire Eastern Conference by a whopping nine points paced by one of the best goaltenders in the league, they're awfully tough to beat. You know who else is tough to beat, especially lately, especially at home? The Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bolts were 19-9-2, including a current three game winning streak at the Forum heading into tonight. Suddenly, might people who gave up looking at the standings a couple of weeks ago be tempted to glimpse at them now?

"You're always peaking at them, but it's out of our control. We dug ourselves a hole and we can only get ourselves out by winning." - Ryan Malone

This all pointed to a really good game from two teams who usually provide an entertaining match-up anyway. It would not disappoint.

Artem Anisimov got the Rangers on the board halfway through the first period, scoring at 10:09 on an assist from Ryan McDonagh. That was the only goal scored during the period, during which the Lightning outshot New York 13-3

The Bolts began the second period with about a minute and a half of extra man advantage, due to a roughing penalty on McDonagh late in the first. But a hooking call on Ryan Malone at :57 and a delay of game penalty on newcomer Keith Aulie a mere three second later not only wiped out the power play but rendered the Lightning shorthanded. At 2:43, Marion Gaborik made them pay, thanks to assists from Derek Stepan and Brad Richards.

Facing Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist (celebrating his 30th birthday) down 2-0 in spite of outshooting them is not what anybody would describe as an ideal situation for a team trying to stay alive. Undaunted, Tom Pyatt put the Lightning on the board at 7:09 with assists from Brett Connolly and Brian Lee. The period ended with the Rangers up by a score of 2-1.

At 3:37 of the third, the Lightning's most dangerous line tied the game. Teddy Purcell tallied the equalizer thanks to a nifty pass from Martin St. Louis. Steven Stamkos pitched in with the secondary assist.

At 10:17, that line was on the ice again and Stamkos gave the Bolts their first lead of the game with his league-leading 45th goal of the season. Lee and Purcell recorded assists on the play.

The Rangers weren't finished though, and Brandon Dubinsky tied the game again at 16:33, scoring on assists from Gaborik and Anton Stralman. Regulation ended with the teams tied 3-3.

Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon had stopped 15 of the 18 shots he'd faced up to that point. He would only face one more in overtime before Ryan Malone, on assists from Purcell and Eric Brewer ended it the 1:58 mark on the only shot the Lightning would need in the extra period.

So with this win and the reults of games played so far, the Lightning now find themselves at 30-28-6, 10th place in the Eastern Conference, four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot and in fourth place in the Southeastern Division, six points out of first.

They'll be in action again tomorrow, a quick road trip to visit the Carolina Hurricanes.

Game notes:

  • It's always a little nostalgiac when the Rangers visit the Forum. Not just because of the presence of former Bolts Stanley Cup heroes John Tortorella, Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedetenko but because the Rangers were the first opponent to face off against the Lightning at what is now known as the Tampa Bay Times Forum, way back on October 20, 1996.
  • Teddy Purcell extended his career-high points scored streak to eight games.
  • The Rangers are now 29-2-2 when scoring first. The last time they lost under those circumstances was a 4-2 loss to Toronto on October 27.
  • This is only the the third game this season the Rangers have lost (all in overtime) when leading after two periods. They're now 26-0-3 in those situations.
  • The team honored Sheila Lopez as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight’s game against the New York Rangers. Lopez, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Pinellas Hope, an institution of Catholic Charities. In five years of working with Pinellas Hope, Lopez has helped more than 3,500 underprivileged individuals with over half of them finding success in getting back on their feet by rejoining their families, finding housing or accepting a program for their rehabilitation of drug abuse. Her spirit is reflected in the willingness to make and serve more than 600,000 meals since Pinellas Hope opened. All of the success that the program has enjoyed has come from Ms. Lopez’s commitment for the residents in her care. There has not been a holiday, or any kind of celebration where it has not been coordinated and executed by Lopez through her presence in serving the residents. She has faced tornadoes, cold nights and personal tragedies that have resulted in death of a resident, but every time she was the first person to respond and react. Since its inception in December 2005, Pinellas Hope has operated nonstop 24 hours a day service to people in need of support. It’s an organization devoted to providing shelter to the homeless through tents, as well as providing warm meals, running water and laundry services. Ms. Lopez takes the special effort, attention and love to see that the needs of almost 400 individuals are addressed on a daily basis. She single handedly assists people in making sure they have a chance to become independent and self-reliant. One of her residents recently said about Ms. Lopez and Pinellas Hope, "Sheila Lopez is a wonderful woman with a big heart. If you try, they will help you in every way – it’s a place that God sent." She has demonstrated a respect for all the people she cares for, no matter what their special circumstance may be. All the individuals at Pinellas Hope recognize that Sheila shows them respect and that every effort is made under her leadership to recognize those in need as a fundamental result of her own compassion.
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