The Tampa Bay Lightning headed into Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers tired and shorthanded, but still managed to pull off a 3-2 victory largely thanks to Louis Domingue in net. Following a 1-0 shootout win over Isles the previous night, the Lightning faced the Rangers without one of their best players in Brayden Point, who the team announced is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
On defense, Mikhail Sergachev got his night of rest, which removed another one of the more dynamic players from the lineup. In net, the Lightning started their backup. But that proved not be a problem as Domingue was the Bolts’ best player tonight, stealing a win for them on the road.
The Lightning looked like a team on the second half of a back to back missing one of its best players in the first period. The Rangers got the first good chance of the game when Jesper Fast got a look in close on Domingue. But the backup was up to the test.
Over the next few minutes, the Lightning looked okay but the Rangers got the better of play. Despite that, the Bolts got the first goal seven minutes into the period against the run of play. Ryan McDonagh fired a fairly harmless shot on a broken rush. It slid through Henrik Lundqvist’s pads and Yanni Gourde tapped it across the goal line.
A few minutes after the goal, the Lightning got the first power play of the game but weren’t able to do much with it. They generated just one shot on net and never threatened to extend the lead. The best chance of that power play probably came from Vladislav Namestnikov, which is a problem because he doesn’t play for Tampa anymore. He got a decent shot on the rush shorthanded but Domingue squeezed it.
Play picked up a bit in the second half of the period. First, Domingue made another save, this time on a puck that took a strange bounce off the end boards. He trapped it between his pad and the post as it sat on its end directly on the goal line.
The Lightning then generated some much-needed offense. The fourth line had a good shift and created some havoc around Lundqvist. Nikita Kucherov followed that by creating a chance for himself from the slot. But a Rangers defender got a stick on the shot and deflected it away from danger.
New York responded with a breakaway during a line change for Ryan Strome. He got two chances as Domingue gave up a rebound but couldn’t put the puck in the net.
The last 90 seconds of the period featured a power play for the Rangers after Dan Girardi took a tripping penalty. Somehow, they managed to look even more impotent than the Lightning power play from earlier in the period up until the buzzer sounded.
The Rangers were the better team in the first period leading in shots and expected goals. But Domingue kept them off the scoreboard and sent the Lightning into the second period with a 1-0 lead.
The Lightning played much better in the second period starting with killing the final 30 seconds of the Rangers penalty. The first good shift of the period came for the second line. That new line of Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, and Mathieu Joseph was the best on the ice for the Lightning tonight. They scored the first goal and were the best in terms of shot differential.
The Bolts extended their lead to 2-0 early in the period with an historic goal. Erik Cernak scored the first of his career, and it was a pretty one. He beat Lundqvist clean on the rush from the slot. Ryan Callahan picked up the primary assist.
A couple minutes later, the second line showed up again with another big shift. This time, Johnson got a wonderful chance off a feed from Gourde but the Rangers goalie fought off the shot.
With 11 minutes left, the Bolts found the net again. Steven Stamkos beat Lundqvist in a matchup of two of the best players of the last ten years. Kucherov fed a pass to Victor Hedman who sent it over to Stamkos and the captain made no mistake. He buried it high glove side coming in on the rush on the right side. The goal was Stamkos’ 28th, which surpassed his total from last year and the assist gave Kucherov 80 points on the season...on February 2nd.
Just past the halfway point of the period, the Lightning took a too many men penalty. The theme of poor power plays continued with the Rangers generating nothing and the Lightning getting a breakaway chance for Anthony Cirelli. Lundqvist made the save keeping the score 3-0.
The second line made another appearance a couple minutes later. This time, Mathieu Joseph got two shots on Lundqvist from the left side but couldn’t find the net. The first shot almost snuck through but the Rangers legend held it out of the net.
New York answered with a strong final few minutes of the period. First, they got on the board with a goal by Mats Zuccarello on a pass from Mika Zibanejad. Domingue was screened on the play but got a lot of the puck and he probably would’ve liked to have a second chance at that one.
He made up for it in the minutes that followed with two huge saves. Brady Skjei got a good look from the slot after a pretty pass from Filip Chytil. Then, Zuccarello got another chance after a turnover by J.T. Miller. Domingue was up to the test both times keeping the multi-goal lead intact.
The Bolts led in shots and expected goals after the second and headed into the third in good shape.
The third period was much like the first. The Rangers were the better team but the Bolts managed to keep a lead on the scoreboard largely thanks to Domingue. His first big test came less than three minutes into the period when Cernak made a poor turnover to Mika Zibanejad in the defensive zone. The Rangers center had a clean look at Domingue but the Bolts goalie denied him.
With just over five minutes past, Braydon Coburn took a tripping penalty, sending the Rangers on the power play. After looking bad on two earlier power play chances, they looked much better this time. Kevin Hayes pulled them within one beating Domingue after a pretty pass from Zibanejad. Lundqvist picked up the second assist after catching the Lightning in a line change with a stretch pass.
The Rangers continued to push after the goal. Hayes got another look from the high slot. The Bolts briefly broke the pressure with a good shift from the top line creating some offensive zone time but they couldn’t get into position for a shot.
Following another stretch of pressure from New York that saw Domingue make multiple saves on shots from distance, Callahan got a breakaway after Marc Staal fell down in the defensive zone. Cally tried his patented forehand backhand move but couldn’t beat his old teammate.
With just under six minutes left, McDonagh took a bad penalty giving the Rangers a chance to tie the game. They applied plenty of pressure but Domingue was a rock making several saves.
The Rangers pulled Lundqvist with 2:19 to go and kept him out for the rest of the game. The Lightning struggled to recover the puck and were never able to score on the empty net. New York spent lots of time set up in structure in the offensive zone. Domingue again had to save the day including a huge save on Chris Kreider on the doorstep.
By the end of third, the Rangers retook the lead in shots and expected goals but the Lightning held on for the 3-2 win.
On the second half of a road back to back, any type of win will do. This wasn’t a pretty one, but four points in two days is still a good showing. Louis Domingue was the star in net and the new second line looked like something the coaches might want to stick with even when everyone is healthy. On a night where the team was outshot by a comfortable margin, they doubled up the Rangers when they were on the ice.
The Bolts get two days off before facing the Vegas Golden Knights back at home on Tuesday.