Lightning surge past Rangers 7-3 to end 3-game slide
By SIMMI BUTTAR
Mar. 31, 2018
NEW YORK (AP) — Coming off an emotional loss that knocked them out of first place, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a little while to get going against the New York Rangers.
They eventually found their stride.
Brayden Point and Cedric Paquette each scored two goals, and Tampa Bay stopped a three-game slide with a 7-3 victory Friday night.
J.T. Miller contributed a power-play goal in the third period as the Lightning regained first place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with 108 points. Dan Girardi also scored against his former team, Alex Killorn had a goal and an assist, and backup goalie Louis Domingue made 28 saves.
"We got better as the game went along," star forward Steven Stamkos said. "We wanted to get the two points and we got it and we'll continue to move on."
The Lightning fell from the top spot for the first time since mid-October when they lost to the Bruins on Thursday night. They scored a total of four goals during their losing streak.
"It was a tough first for us, just to get our legs back, but I like the way we responded in the second and third and the guys did what they had to do," coach Jon Cooper said.
Leading 2-1 entering the third period, Miller, Paquette and Point scored in the first 2:38 to blow the game open.
Miller jammed in a rebound of Victor Hedman's shot from the point 35 seconds into the period. Hedman finished with two assists.
"It felt nice," Miller said of scoring against his former team. "It was hard with a lot of emotions and thoughts coming into this game. You just want to go out and play your game and luckily, got one to come on my stick in front of the net."
Paquette added his second of the game when he took a pass from Cory Conacher and sent his shot off the post and into the net. Point finished the run 45 seconds later when he scored his 29th of the season on a 3-on-1 break.
Point added his second of the game on an empty-netter, and Girardi scored a power-play goal in the final minute.
New York rookie Filip Chytil got his first NHL goal. Chris Kreider and Brady Skjei also scored for the Rangers, and Ondrej Pavelec made 43 saves.
Tampa Bay's only visit to Madison Square Garden this season came in the Rangers' home finale.
Before the game, the Rangers played a video tribute honoring Ryan McDonagh, Girardi and Miller. McDonagh, a former captain, spent parts of eight seasons with the Rangers before being traded at the February deadline with Miller. Girardi played nearly 800 games with the Rangers over parts of 11 years.
"A month ago, I didn't expect to have to play this game," Miller said. "You try to keep it together during the game as much as possible.
"A lot of good friends there on the other side so you try to keep it serious and professional during the game. It was a cool experience what they did for me here."
The Rangers opened the scoring in the first period when defenseman Skjei wristed a shot from the top of the right circle past Domingue at 14:59 for his fourth of the season.
Paquette tied it for the Lightning early in the second. Mikhail Sergachev took a shot from the point and Paquette poked in the loose puck for his fourth goal at 3:15.
Just 1:18 later, Killorn gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead with his 15th goal. Anthony Cirelli sent a pass to Killorn in the slot. Killorn sent it on net and knocked in his own rebound.
Domingue preserved the lead when he made a sliding pad save on Kreider on a Rangers power play midway through the period.
Chytil scored when he knocked in Mats Zuccarello's shot that banked off the end boards at 8:14 of the third.
"Zukey shoots and it was a rebound and empty net, so I'm excited I scored my first goal finally," Chytil said.
Stamkos and Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich had an unexpected fight after the first period after Buchnevich tripped Nikita Kucherov. Buchnevich got a minor for tripping and a fighting major. Stamkos got an instigating minor, fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct.
"Stuff happens in the game and I thought Kuch got clipped and just responding," Stamkos said.
NOTES: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist won the 30th annual Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award. The award is presented to the Ranger who "goes above and beyond the call of duty" as chosen by fans. The award, given annually since the 1987-88 season, is named after New York City Police Detective Steven McDonald, who was shot and injured in the line of duty on July 12, 1986, and died on Jan. 10, 2017. ... The Rangers finished 21-16-4 at home this season.
Lightning: Host Nashville on Sunday.
Rangers: Travel to Carolina to face the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
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