The Tampa Bay Lightning had two goals on Thursday night when they took on the New York Rangers: first, respond to the lackluster effort they put forth on Wednesday when they lost in overtime to the Islanders; second, head into the Christmas break as the Southeast Division leader. They accomplished both those goals with an extended 11-round shootout victory in Madison Square Garden.
The Bolts got off to a quick start when Marty St. Louis intercepted a pass at center ice and beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a beautiful shot to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. For St. Louis, the unassisted goal at the 2:00 minute mark of the first period was his 14th goal of the year. For the Lightning, it was a huge goal to help erase the bad taste left over from the Islanders game the night prior. The Rangers would strike back at the 11:16 mark of the first, when former Lightning playoff hero Ruslan Fedotenko scored his sixth goal of the year at to tie the game at one.
That score would not last long though, as Alex Frolov scored just 12 seconds later to give the Rangers their first lead of the night. Frolov was able to beat Lightning goalie Dan Ellis on a scramble in front. Lightning coach Guy Boucher, in a rare move, took his timeout after this goal to settle down the troops, and the team responded. The Lightning tied the score back up at 2-2 when Steven Stamkos scored his 27th goal of the year; that score would hold up going into the intermission.
Into the second period, the Lightning got the go-ahead goal when Pavel Kubina centered a pass to the front of the net. Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier was able to get a stick on it and deflect it past Lundqvist to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead. For Lecavalier, it was his 4th goal of the year and first since returning to the Lightning lineup after recovering from wrist surgery. That score would hold up into the second intermission.
Into the third, the Rangers would tie up the game at 3 when Derek Stepan was able to stick handle around Ellis and tuck the puck into the net at the at the 11:18 mark of the period. For Stepan, it was his 10th goal of the season. Both teams would trade chances, but neither would be able to get the go ahead goal in either regulation or overtime.
In what can only be described as a thrilling shootout,the Lightning prevailed in round 11 when Ryan Malone beat Lundqvist for the deciding goal. Both teams had multiple chances to win in the shootout but the goalies stood tall before Malone won it.
With the win, the Lightning gave their fans a wonderful gift going into the holiday break, first place in the Southeast Division. They will come out of the break on Sunday when they travel to Atlanta to take on the division-rival Thrashers in what will be a huge game for both teams.
Follow Mike on twitter at twitter.com/mcorcoran81