TAMPA, Fla. — The Lightning are playing a fast-paced north-south game that many other NHL teams simply can’t keep up with — but the Rangers have proven throughout the season that they can do it.
In more ways than one, the Rangers took on the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions and despite a rare offside night for the power play, it was still decisive when Mika Zibanejad fired a one-timer in end of game. in the third period to give Rangers a 2-1 win Saturday night at Amalie Arena.
“We played the way we want to play, and I think we’re finding our game and everyone’s enjoying it,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after the win, which completed a three-game sweep over the Lightning this season in front of a bunch of fans in red, white and blue, whose pro-Rangers chants drowned out everything else.
“The power play was a bit off until he got the winning goal in the end, so it’s going when they had to.”
The Rangers power play has been a staple of their offense for much of the season, so going 0 for 5 in two periods was unusual, but when the Lightning’s Eric Cernak caught Chris Kreider with a high stick at 17:45 of the last quarter, the Rangers did not miss their sixth chance.
Artemi Panarin’s cross pass sent Zibanejad into his sweet spot from the left face-off circle to give Rangers their first lead of the night with 16 seconds left in regulation time. Mika March pressed on.
“It’s a game,” Zibanejad said of the power-play struggles. “When things are not going well for you, the tendency is to overwork yourself a bit. Try to do too much, you want it so badly. Maybe that was the case today and we complicated things a bit , including me.
“But at the end of the day we did it and we won the game.”
The Rangers tied the game at one goal apiece at 9:25 of the second period on Jacob Trouba’s 10th goal of the season, which tied his career high to lead all Rangers defensemen in scoring. the call was confirmed.
Lightning winger Pat Maroon took the growing physics of the game a bit too far when he shoved Rangers star keeper Igor Shesterkin behind the Blueshirts net. a matched roughing penalty with the Rangers defender.
Ryan Reaves then handed the consequences to Maroon early in the third period, playing the enforcer role he adopted when he came to Rangers this offseason. The two dropped the gloves and Reaves landed a few punches before exchanging a few passionate words with Maroon.
“I think the confidence building is that now that we’ve played two games, we’ve had a pretty consistent effort from our whole team,” Trouba said. “There are no passengers and I think what does us best is that we’re building our game that way. We play with good teams, we play well, Igor plays very well, we let’s not give up a ton of opportunities – we give up a few – but it will happen.
“Finding ways to win and that’s the most important thing.”
Midway through a tough weekend, Rangers may have topped the first power club on the schedule. On Sunday in Raleigh, North Carolina, they will face another team that is a completely different beast, the Hurricanes. The Rangers haven’t beaten Carolina this season and will face the Hurricanes twice more before the end of the regular season.
Rangers have more to prove.