From start to finish Monday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum it was Martin St, Louis' night, and the Rangers were the unfortunate victims as the Lightning defeated New York 5-0, bringing to an end the Rangers six-game road winning streak.
St. Louis, the popular Lightning captain, was feted before the contest for having played his 1,000th NHL game last week in a road contest out in Los Angeles, with his former teammate and current Rangers alternate captain Brad Richards taking part in the pre-game ceremony. Then last year's NHL scoring champion went out and scored twice on breakaways, and later added an assist, to help lead his Lightning to victory.
Though the Rangers had more shots on goal and the better of the scoring chances they could not contend with the opportunistic St. Louis and his 'mates, in particular goalie Ben Bishop who made 37 saves, including 17 in the first period, to run his career record to a perfect 4-0-0 against New York. The Rangers were blanked for the fifth time this season, while Bishop earned his second shutout of the season.
Bishop's performance was very similar to that put forth by Henrik Lundqvist in the Rangers 3-2 victory last Thursday in Dallas---one in which the Rangers were outplayed by a wide margin early, but were able to take an early lead and eventually win behind his 41 saves. On Monday night, though, Lundqvist was not nearly as fortunate as St. Louis twice was sprung on breakaways, and then late in the second period a non call by the referees led to another odd-man rush score against the Rangers No. 1 netminder.
Cam Talbot replaced Lundqvist in goal after two periods of play. Lundqvist surrendered four goals on 22 shots, while Talbot allowed one on three shots.
Tampa raced to a quick 2-0 lead before the game was much more than three minutes old on Monday. 20 year-old Nikita Kucherov, making his NHL debut, scored on his first shot during his first NHL shift to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead 2:12 into the contest. St. Louis then took off past a diving Marc Staal after a turnover and beat Lundqvist on a breakaway 58 seconds later to put the visitors in a two-goal hole.
Though they were shaken, the Rangers regrouped nicely and ran off a string of nine consecutive shots on goal against Bishop, but could not put one past the 6-foot-7 goaltender. The line of Rick Nash-Richards-Ryan Callahan created numerous prime scoring opportunities, while Dominic Moore was stoned point-blank late in the first period and Anton Stralman was flat-out robbed by Bishop's glove off an open snap shot from the slot.
There was more of the same in the second period as the Rangers pressed, but could not solve Bishop, who was also shaken up by a rising Staal shot that hit him in the neck just 90 seconds into the middle stanza. Bishop shook the pain off and later on stood tall when the Lightning killed off 62 seconds worth of a Ranger 5-on-3 power play in which Nash drew both of the penalties against Alex Killorn and B.J. Crombeen.
The Rangers were 0-for-6 on the power play Monday night, while their penalty kill responded with a perfect 3-for-3 performance.
St. Louis scored hs second of the game, and 10th of the season, 3:12 into the second period to make the score 3-0. After a turnover in the neutral zone by the Rangers, Valteri Filpulla slipped a pass to St. Louis between New York defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi and the 5-foot-8 winger finished by roofing the puck past Lundqvist.
Late in the second period Richards was taken to the ice in the offenisve zone with a stick between his legs. Officials failed to make a penalty call against Tampa and the Lightning's Teddy Purcell scooped up the puck and took off down right wing. Purcell rifled a shot past Lundqvist off the odd-man rush at 16:52 while Richards screamed at the officials in vane. It was symbolic of the Rangers night.
Purcell netted his second of the game off a 3-on-1 rush, beating Talbot with 61 seconds left to play in the third period. St. Louis earned the primary assist, picking up his third three-point game of the season.
Monday's loss was the Rangers first on this five-game road trip, which began with wins in Dallas on Thursday and in Nashville on Saturday. It also marked the first time the Rangers had allowed more than three goals in a game in 17 games, dating back to a 4-0 loss in New Jersey on October 19th. Since that contest the Rangers had held opponents to two goals or fewer 15 times.
The road trip continues on Thanksgiving Eve when the Rangers visit the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, before it closes Friday afternoon with a tilt in Boston against the Bruins.