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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
The National Hockey League's top defensive team once again thwarted the league's top-scoring team Wednesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, as the Rangers won their fifth consecutive road contest 2-1 over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Henrik Lundqvist starred in goal with 32 saves for the Blueshirts.
"It was a tough game to come in and play, they are such a skilled team," said Lundqvist. "It was a good win for us. A really good win."
The Rangers entered play with the lowest goals-against average of any team in the NHL, 1.86, and for the second time this season they shut down the high-flying Lightning attack. Tampa Bay is the league's top scoring team, averaging 3.4 goals per contest.
In winning their first two games against the Lightning this season, the Rangers have allowed only two goals in 120 minutes of hockey, including one on a penalty shot.
Lundqvist lost his bid for his 5th shutout of the season when Michel Ouellet directed a shot past the Rangers goaltender with 16.7 seconds remaining in the game. Lundqvist nearly lost the shutout three minutes earlier when an apparent goal by Ouellet was waved off by referee Rob Martell and then supported by video review.
On the disallowed goal, Rangers alternat captain Brendan Shanahan stopped the puck from crossing the goal line by diving behind Lundqvist and then shoveling the puck under his goaltender. The heady play by the Rangers veteran winger preserved the shutout at the time, but might have also saved the victory, considering Ouellet's goal that did count later on.
Fedor Tyutin and Colton Orr scored for the Rangers on Wednesday night, as New York bounced back from Monday's 2-1 loss to the Islanders with an impressive effort. The Rangers have now won 10 of their last 12 games overall, a stretch that began with a 3-1 victory over the Lightning on Oct. 29 at The Garden.
Orr netted his first goal of the season, and third of his career, at 2:05 of the final period. The eventual game-winning goal gave New York a 2-0 lead and came on a left wing shot that deflected off of Tampa defenseman Doug Janik’s stick and behind goalie Johan Holmqvist.
Rookie defenseman Ivan Baranka, who was making his NHL debut, earned an assist, and his first career point, on the goal by Orr. The 22-year-old Baranka was inserted into the lineup because the Rangers were forced to scratch Michal Rozsival due to a bruised knee. Baranka, the Rangers' second-round pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, had played in 17 games with the team's AHL affiliate in Hartford this season, recording two goals and five assists for seven points.
Tyutin gave the visitors a 1-0 lead 8:52 into the first period when his left wing shot dipped under the left pad of Holmqvist and across the goal line.
Petr Prucha made the goal possible on a great individual effort in which he stole the puck from Lecavalier in the Rangers zone, sped up right wing, fired a shot on net that Holmqvist stopped, collected his own rebound and fired another shot on net, grabbed that rebound and had a third attempt blocked. Blair Betts then hopped on the loose puck and shoveled a pass back to Tyutin, who fired his third goal of the season past Holmqvist.
Tyutin and Prucha, who earned an assist on the play, each have three points in their last four games. And Betts earned his first point of the season with the assist on Tyutin's goal.
Rangers defensemen have scored 15 goals so far in 2007-08, including six in the last three games. Only the Montreal Canadiens, with 17, have received more goal production this season from their defensemen.
As has been the case of much of this season, Lundqvist was the Rangers' best defensive player. He made two sterling stops on the league's leading scorer, Vincent Lecavalier, in the first period, and he helped keep the Lightning captain off the scoresheet for the first time in nine games.
Lundqvist's best save in the middle period came on a screened deflection by Chris Gratton with just over a minute remaining. And in the third, the Rangers goaltender had the high-scoring Martin St. Louis looking to the heavens after snaring St. Louis' one-time blast from between the circles just four minutes into the period.
"I worked with (Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire) on staying back in the crease and being square to the shooter and that was good for me tonight," said Lundqvist.
Lundqvist had a touch of luck on his side, too. Besides the disallowed goal, Tampa's Mike Lundin hit the post behind Lundqvist in the first, and former Rangers forward Jan Hlavec clanged a shot off of the crossbar in the second.
The Rangers lineup had a bit off a different look in Tampa, as Baranka was not the only new face. Greg Moore, 10-8-18 at Hartford in 18 games this season, also made his NHL debut on Wednesday. The 23-year-old Moore centered a line with Marcel Hossa on the left wing and Prucha on the right wing. The Rangers nearly scored on Moore's first shift 1:42 into the game when Hossa's wraparound try was denied by Holmqvist.
Moore's arrival caused a ripple effect for Chris Drury. The veteran, who had been centering the third line most of the season, moved to the top line, where he played on the left side of Brandon Dubinsky and Jaromir Jagr.
The move seemed to energize Drury, who recorded a team-high three shots in the first period, including a quick wrist shot off a Jagr drop pass at the right wing circle that required Holmqvist to make a sharp glove save four minutes into the game.
The Rangers will conclude their two-game swing through the Sunshine State when they travel farther south to visit the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
|Fedor Tyutin (3) ASST: Blair Betts (1), Petr Prucha (4)|
1 - 0 NYR
|Colton Orr (1) ASST: Ivan Baranka (1), Jason Strudwick (1)|
2 - 0 NYR
|Michel Ouellet (5) ASST: Ryan Craig (1), Filip Kuba (7)|
2 - 1 NYR
|Jason Strudwick Interference against Ryan Craig|
|Martin St. Louis Interference against Marcel Hossa|
|Jaromir Jagr Hooking against Jan Hlavac|
|Marcel Hossa Hooking against Chris Gratton|
|Dan Jancevski Holding against Sean Avery|
|Dan Girardi Holding against Brad Richards|
|Vincent Lecavalier Interference on goalkeeper against Henrik Lundqvist|