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Lethargic Lightning fall to Rangers in overtime, 2-1

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A poor performance was salvaged due to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s stellar play in net.

NHL: New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Frustration was the name of the game this evening when the Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the New York Rangers 2-1 in overtime. A lethargic first period found the Lightning in the rare (this season) position of trailing after Chris Kreider scored on a 3-on-1 during a 4-on-4 sequence. Andrei Vasilevskiy made a desperation save and almost stopped it, but the puck squeaked past him to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead. The rest of the first period was a mess.

The same issues that plagued the Lightning against Anaheim were apparent for the first 30 minutes of this game. Bad passing, poor reads, and odd decision-making gave New York plenty of momentum for the first period and the first half of the second. Momentum finally turned for Tampa Bay during a penalty kill where Brayden Point forced a turnover at the Lightning blueline then passed it to Yanni Gourde. Gourde then made a pass to Victor Hedman on a two on one. After Hedman pulled the single defender towards him, he lofted a pass to Gourde who put it past Henrik Lundqvist to give the Lightning some much-needed life.

Gourde’s goal gave the Lightning their legs and the remainder of the 2nd period was controlled by Tampa Bay. They still exhibited sloppiness during the remainder of the period, but it was much less frequent.

Early in the third, the Lightning thought they had the go-ahead goal by Alex Killorn until the referees for some reason called Gabriel Dumont for goaltender interference. How was it goaltender interference? Hell if I know. What I do know is that Dumont was in front of Lundqvist and was blatantly pushed into Lundqvist by Steven Kempfer. Additionally, the push barely touched Lundqvist and he was still able to move towards the shot.

Simply put, Lundqvist and the Rangers got lucky that their own player could push an opposing player into their goaltender for a beneficial call.

Aside from terrible officiating in the third period, both teams played each other quite evenly. Tampa had their opportunities while New York had theirs as well. Putting aside the sloppiness that Tampa displayed this evening, Lundqvist was on his game. Not to be outdone, however, was Vasilevskiy. The Russian goaltender had to make more than a fair share of impressive saves to keep the game close early on; mainly due to his forward and defense corps making an array of bad passes throughout the game. If it wasn’t for Vasilevskiy’s play in the first period and the latter part of the third, the Lightning don’t get a point this evening.

Overtime provided the Lightning with a few chances to seal a win, but it wasn’t to be. J.T. Miller secured the win for New York after outskating and outmaneuvering all three Lightning players on the ice as he cut in front of Vasilevskiy. He patiently waited for Vasilevskiy to move out of position before roofing the game-winning goal on Vasilevskiy’s short side.

The Lightning deserved this loss after allowing the last place team in the Metropolitan division to come into their arena and push them around. This was a Rangers team that was fragile. A team that had underperformed and barely scraped a win over the Vegas Golden Knights a few nights ago (after blowing a multi-goal lead to said Vegas team). Their own coach was reportedly on the hot seat and the Lightning couldn’t muster up an effort good enough to defeat them. Officiating was poor, yes, but the Lightning only needs to look at themselves for this loss.

The Good

Andrei Vasilevskiy

If it wasn’t for the play of Vasilevskiy this game would’ve been over before the first-period horn sounded. The Lightning came out lethargic and out of sorts (just like the Anaheim game) and New York took advantage of it. Full credit to the Rangers for playing like this game meant something. It showed and Vasilevskiy made them work for this evening’s win.

Without our Russian netminder, the Lightning would have been embarrassed without even a point.

The Bad

Line Shuffling

Jon Cooper decided to mix up the bottom two lines before this game, and needless to say I wasn’t a fan of how they played. Johnson was paired with Kunitz and Callahan while Killorn was put out with Brown and Dumont. The resulting play was mostly poor. Johnson was clearly trying everything he could to muster any kind of offense, but it just wasn’t jiving with that line. Killorn’s line didn’t do much else either.

Splitting Johnson and Killorn makes sense if you want to “spread the offense out,” but Cooper had a good thing going with putting one of the other top six forwards on the Johnson line and creating offense. Callahan and Kunitz aren’t the offensive players they used to be. So far this season the fourth line has been the grinding momentum shifting line. Tonight, both the third and fourth lines looked out of sync and it hurt the Lightning.

Officiating

This game was aggravating enough with how Tampa Bay played, but the officiating made it near impossible to watch.

First and foremost, the goaltender interference. Watch the replay. Dumont is in front of Lundqvist, which is perfectly legal. Before Killorn shoots, Dumont is trying to position himself for a screen. Steven Kempfer turns and gives Dumont a push. Not a hard one, but a push that will definitely make someone move. The way physics work is if one object is hit by another it moves.

Dumont gets pushed and barely touches Lundqvist. Lundqvist still is able to make a move towards Killorn’s shot and barely misses it. Yet, somehow Dumont is called for goaltender interference.

Lundqvist didn’t even react after the goal. He knew he got beat there. The referee, however, thought otherwise.

It was a bad call. Simple as that.

I’m not even going to get into the penalties called. It was a mess of a game for the officials.

Passing

I don’t even know how to explain how bad Tampa Bay’s passing was this evening. Passing too hard, passing too soft, passing to the Rangers, icing the puck when they shouldn’t. It was a nightmare.

New York had a gameplan to clog the neutral zone (one the Lightning should’ve expected) and they executed it extremely well. Tampa did nothing to compensate for New York’s game plan and they repeatedly tried passing when they shouldn’t have or even worse making blind passes to nowhere.

This circles back to Vasilevskiy. Way too many of his saves came from bad passes from his team. They cannot allow that kind of sloppy play continue. Columbus will eat them alive Saturday if they do.

The Whatever

The entire game

The whole game was a mess. Tampa played poorly and deserved to lose. They fought back (mainly because their goaltender kept them alive), but that is now two home games in a row they’ve allowed a team to come into their home and push them around. It’s something that is annoying, but this team has bounced back before. I fully expect them to iron out the issues. The Lighting are 10-2-2 with 22 points. They will be fine. Games like this though just irritate me; they’re better than this.

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