TAMPA — The Lightning had no business winning Thursday’s game against the Rangers.
Sure, it got a potential go-ahead goal waved off early in the third period due to a questionable goalie interference call. But that Tampa Bay squeezed a point out of a 2-1 overtime loss is thanks to another Herculean effort by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
This one could have been ugly early had Vasilevskiy not bailed out the Lightning early with saves on several odd-man rushes. The last time Tampa Bay gave up that many chances in a game was in a 5-4 loss to the Panthers in Game No. 2, which it dubbed a wakeup call.
"The Rangers deserved to win that game," coach Jon Cooper said. "We played loose. We let them skate by us on a lot of occasions. We just can’t think it’s going to be a track meet every night and we’re going to skill all these out.
"If you take the goaltender interference out of it, that would have given us two (goals). (The Rangers) should have had six. It was like, ‘Don’t worry, ‘Vasy’ will get it.’ You can’t play like that."
The Lightning, off to a tremendous 10-3-1 start, isn’t going to be perfect every night. There will be games like this. But Tampa Bay didn’t match the desperation of the struggling Rangers (5-7-2), who drug the Lightning into another tight-checking game.
"They were desperate, and they played like it," Cooper said. "We didn’t play desperate. We played like it was Game 82 and we had already accomplished something. We haven’t accomplished anything."
Vasilevskiy fell one short of a franchise mark of wins in 10 consecutive decisions. But he played well enough to win. He was at his best early, making 33 saves overall. Tampa Bay got lucky when Michael Grabner hit the post five minutes in. Vasilevskiy made a great stop on J.T. Miller on a 2-on-1. Then he gloved a breakaway chance by Kevin Shattenkirk, who had just come out of the box.
It took a 3-on-1 for the Rangers to finally convert, Chris Kreider sneaking a shot through late in the first period.
"(Vasilevskiy) was amazing," forward Yanni Gourde said. "He’s been our best player since the start of the season. He’s been our MVP."
This game had a nasty feel to it. There were a few fights, Ryan Callahan and J.T. Brown each getting in a bout with Rangers defenseman Steven Kampfer. Victor Hedman got into a post-whistle scrum with Mats Zuccarello.
The Lightning tied it midway through the second on a shorthanded goal by Gourde. On a delayed penalty call on the Rangers, Brayden Point sparked a 2-on-1 with a great effort in the neutral zone, drawing a penalty. Hedman and Gourde had a give-and-go, with Gourde finishing for his third goal of the season.
Tampa Bay thought it took the lead early in the third when Alex Killorn’s point shot trickled through traffic. But the goal was quickly waved off due to goaltender interference against Gabriel Dumont, who appeared to be pushed into Henrik Lundqvist by Kampfer. The Lightning challenged to no avail, and the Amalie Arena sellout crowd of 19,092 let the referees hear it.
"That was a bad call," Cooper said. "The only person in the building that thought it wasn’t a goal is the ref. He missed it."
On the overtime winner, Miller whipped around Gourde and then Point in front of the net, putting the puck top shelf. Gourde said there was a miscommunication.
Said Point: "(Miller) beat both of us."
For the Lightning, it was that kind of night.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, N.Y. Rangers, Kreider 4 (Skjei, Zibanejad), 18:34. Penalties—Shattenkirk, NYR, (holding), 12:49; Zuccarello, NYR, (slashing), 17:32; Hedman, TB, (roughing), 17:32.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Gourde 3 (Hedman, Point), 11:00 (sh). Penalties—Kampfer, NYR, Major (fighting), 9:38; Callahan, TB, Major (fighting), 9:38; Namestnikov, TB, (cross checking), 10:01.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Brown, TB, Major (fighting), 3:01; Kampfer, NYR, Major (fighting), 3:01; Killorn, TB, (slashing), 3:01; McDonagh, NYR, (roughing), 5:04.
Overtime—3, N.Y. Rangers, Miller 3 (Shattenkirk), 1:19. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—N.Y. Rangers 13-12-9-1—35. Tampa Bay 8-16-4—28. Power-play opportunities—N.Y. Rangers 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—N.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 3-4-2 (28 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 10-1-0 (35-33). A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:45. Referees—Tom Chmielewski, Brian Pochmara. Linesmen—Tim Nowak, Pierre Racicot.