TAMPA – For weeks, the Rangers have been looking for a result like this. Mats Zuccarello even said two nights earlier that the Blueshirts couldn’t bank on scoring six goals a game and needed to find ways to win low-scoring affairs.
They finally pulled one out on Thursday night against what had been the best team in the NHL thus far, topping the Lightning, 2-1, on a J.T. Miller overtime goal. In the process the Rangers (5-7-2) have won consecutive games for the first time this season.
Miller’s goal was his third of the season. Henrik Lundqvist had 27 saves through regulation after only facing four shots in the third period. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 33 saves through three periods.
J.T. Miller (10) celebrates his overtime goal with Kevin Shattenkirk.
Time will tell if Thursday night actually marked a breakthrough for the Rangers, but this was undoubtedly their biggest and best result of this season.
The Lightning thought it had scored a go-ahead goal at 3:01 of the third off an Alex Killorn shot but the officials got together and waved it off because of goalie interference. Tampa Bay’s challenge was unsuccessful.
Chris Kreider celebrates his goal with teammate Brady Skjei.
Before play restarted Killorn appeared to be jawing at someone on the Ranger bench and poked his stick toward one of the Ranger players, which prompted a small scrum and a fight. The Rangers ended up with a power play out of it.
Harping day after day about trying to get off to good starts, the Rangers finally did so against the Lightning with perhaps their best period of the season, certainly their finest opening 20 minutes. They came out of it with a 1-0 lead while not giving up much against the Lightning’s studs Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers defeated the Lightning, 2-1.
Chris Kreider finished off a three-on-one with 1:26 left in that period. Mika Zibanejad passed back and forth with Brady Skjei before Zibanejad fed Kreider through the slot. Kreider’s goal was his fourth in the last six games after he went the first eight games of the season without one. Zibanejad has eight points in his last five contests.
Tampa Bay tied the game on a shorthanded goal from Yanni Gourde off the rush. When Gourde passed to Victor Hedman from right to left, Kreider chased the puck all the way across despite Kevin Shattenkirk having him covered, leaving Gourde open when Hedman passed it back through the slot.
Early on in the second Michael Grabner appeared to have scored, but the play was whistled dead when he touched the puck because Boo Nieves had just played the puck with a high-stick.
Alain Vigneault decided to scratch Brendan Smith for Nick Holden after Smith had a rough evening against Vegas on Tuesday during which he played only 34 seconds in the third period. That marked the third game out of 14 this season that Smith, who re-signed on a four-year deal with a $ 4.35 million cap hit right before free agency opened, was a healthy scratch.