TAMPA — Ryan Malone sat in the locker room at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, dried blood clotting at the corner of his left eye, the bruise underneath turning vivid shades of yellow and black.
Nothing, though, was brighter than his smile after he scored the winner in the Lightning's 4-3 overtime victory over the Rangers on Friday night.
"I'll take a lot more," Malone said of the high stick that caused the damage, "if they keep going in."
Malone's goal 1:58 into extra time finished Tampa Bay's comeback from a 2-0 second-period deficit against the Eastern Conference's top team and gave it its third straight win and fifth straight at home.
And the Lightning (30-28-6) continued its improbable surge in which it is 13-5-2 in its past 20 games and moved into 10th in the East, four points behind the Jets for the eighth and final playoff spot with two games in hand.
It also is six points behind the first-place Panthers in the Southeast Division, with another big game tonight at Carolina.
"We still got a long road," Malone said. "We know we're in a hole here, so we take it one game at a time. We don't have time to take a five-minute lull. We have to be ready from the drop of the puck."
Tampa Bay was that against New York and ended with a 30-19 shot advantage.
Steven Stamkos scored his league-best 45th goal. Teddy Purcell had a goal and three points, and has five goals, 12 assists in a career-best eight-game points streak.
Tom Pyatt scored. Mathieu Garon made 16 saves. The team blocked 23 shots, with Eric Brewer getting seven, and defenseman Brian Lee, in his second game since being acquired from the Senators, made what coach Guy Boucher called two "terrific" passes for two assists and his first Lightning points.
"The better team won," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.
The Lightning was better because it disrupted the puck cycling New York uses so well to grind teams down. Helping were Lee, Mike Commodore and Keith Aulie, bigger defensemen acquired Monday in trades.
Still, the Rangers were up 2-0 in the second thanks to sharp goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist.
But Pyatt scored 7:09 into the second. Purcell scored his career-high 18th goal to make it 2-2 3:37 into the third after Marty St. Louis captured a loose puck after a faceoff and passed cross-ice. Stamkos' sizzling snap shot from the slot gave the Lightning the lead with 9:43 left.
Brandon Dubinsky tied it with 3:27 left after he turned St. Louis around and beat Garon cleanly. But all that did was set up Malone, whose 11th goal of the season capped a productive game in which he played 20:27 with four shots and three hits.
"It's one of the hardest shots he can do, right above the pad, inside the post," Boucher said of the winner. "You couldn't get a better shot than what he did. This is what beats any goaltender."
No wonder Malone was smiling.
First Period—1, NYR, Anisimov 13 (McDonagh), 10:09. Penalties—Girardi, NYR (high-sticking), :33; Boyle, NYR (roughing), 11:48; Connolly, TB (roughing), 11:48; McDonagh, NYR (roughing), 19:42.
Second Period—2, NYR, Gaborik 31 (Stepan, Richards), 2:43 (pp). 3, TB, Pyatt 7 (Connolly, Lee), 7:09. Penalties—Malone, TB (hooking), :57; Aulie, TB (delay of game), 1:00.
Third Period—4, TB, Purcell 18 (St. Louis, Stamkos), 3:37. 5, TB, Stamkos 45 (Lee, Purcell), 10:17. 6, NYR, Dubinsky 7 (Gaborik, Stralman), 16:33. Penalties—Hagelin, NYR, double minor (high-sticking), 10:33.
Overtime—7, TB, Malone 11 (Purcell, Brewer), 1:58. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—NYR 3-8-7-1—19. TB 13-11-6-1—31. Power-play opportunities—NYR 1 of 2; TB 0 of 4. Goalies—NYR, Lundqvist 30-12-5 (31 shots-27 saves). TB, Garon 22-16-4 (19-16).