Maybe the All Star break was just what the Rangers needed to regroup and get their game back together.
Jimmy Vesey scored twice, including an empty netter, and Jonathan Quick continues to stay hot as the Rangers scored a solid, 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden last night for their third win in a row.
‘I think the break came at a good time for us. Got some energy back, went over some things,” Vesey said after the Rangers won their second consecutive game against one of the top teams in the league. “Played two really good teams [Colorado and Tampa Bay] and two teams that have guys that can, frankly beat you. Guys, you know, top line that can singlehandedly beat you so we’ve done a good job.”
Quick made 19 saves and won his third straight start as the 38-year old continues to drink from the fountain of youth. “When we need to make a big save, he’s [Quick] made ‘em,” said Jacob Trouba who returned from his two game suspension.
It’ll be an interesting call for Coach Peter Laviolette in the next game Friday night in Chicago because the original plan called for Igor Shesterkin to make his first start of the post-break against the Black Hawks.
As if he was putting out a pre-emptive strike for the inevitable question about who starts the next game, Laviolette said, “We’re fortunate we have two really good goaltenders here.”
The former Conn Smythe trophy winner did not have a plethora of shots to face, but he came up big when he needed to against a Lightning team that had not played in 11 days, but had won 8 of 9 coming in.
“Both types [high amount or low amount of shots on goal] of games create challenges so you take whatever comes and you try and make one save at a time and go from there,” Quick said after winning his 8th straight game at MSG (8-1 overall at home).
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky made 21 saves and played well, but he’d like to have back the two Ranger goals which he conceivably could’ve stopped.
The layoff didn’t seem to hamper the Lightning early as they had a lot of jump from the opening faceoff, but the Rangers have tightened up defensively since coming back and they were able to limit the damage against one of the most potent offensive teams in the NHL as the teams skated through a scoreless first period.
“It was tough to generate [scoring chances]. I thought we did a good job from keeping them from generating,” Laviolette said. “It was a low event game and that was what was dealt and so, for that, I thought our guys did a good job defensively.”
The Rangers fourth line provided the first goal of the game less than two minutes into the second period.
Jimmy Vesey was on a rush down the right side and was deep in the Lightning zone when he flipped a backhander over the left shoulder of Vasilevski for his 10th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. The Lightning goalie gave Vesey a very little opening up top and he was able to take advantage.
“There’s a value to what that line brought to the table tonight,” Laviolette said. “I thought that they were effective. They took, probably half their shifts against the [Braden] Point, Kucherov [line], Kucherov started to double shift and they moved him around.”
Vasilevsky kept the Rangers off the board later in the second period with a clutch save. Artemi Panarin was in deep and he backhanded a pass from the left faceoff circle that found Alexis Lafreniere in the slot but Vasilevsky made a nifty glove save to keep it a 1-0 game. Barclay Goodrow and Tyler Pitlick assisted on the goal at 1:15 of the second period.
The Rangers took a 2-0 lead with a little over two minutes left in the second period.
There was a battle for the puck in the right corner, but it came loose and Chris Krieder passed it to Jonny Brodzinski who was open and buried a wrister past Vasilevsky for his third goal of the season to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead after two.
“Just trying to put a puck towards the net,” Brodzinski said. “Great play by Kreids [Kreider] and Wheeler [Blake Wheeler] down low. Just finding a little soft spot and then just try and put something on net and it squeaked through.”
Tampa Bay’s outstanding defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who missed the previous 17 games and played his first game since December 19th, had his leg caught in an awkward position when he got tangled with Lafreniere along the boards and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson left the ice in the second period when he was hit in the mouth by a puck, but he was able to return in the third wearing a face guard.
Tampa Bay made it a 2-1 game in the third period when Brandon Hagel beat Quick from the slot with 14:32 remaining in the game, so there was plenty of time for the Lightning, who had scored six goals in each of their three games before the break, to tie the game. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov assisted on the goal and retook the NHL’s scoring lead with 86 points.
With 4:38 remaining, Mika Zibanejad was called for holding Kucherov and the Lightning, who have the league’s top power play, got their first opportunity of the game with the man advantage.
The Rangers penalty kill went to work and limited the Lightning to one shot on the power play, but they also got a break when Victor Hedman’s slapper hit the post with a little over four minutes remaining. Lightning center Michael Eyssimont also had a chance from in front but missed the net. Vesey clinched the game with an empty net goal with 1:01 remaining.
The Rangers are 15-0-0 at home when they allow three or fewer goals while they also continued their recent domination of the Lightning. The Rangers have beaten the Lightning five straight times at home and are 8-0-1 in their last nine overall vs. Tampa Bay.