TAMPA — The fist of Lightning enforcer David Koci landed flush, twice, on Colton Orr's face before Koci wrestled the Rangers tough guy to the ice.
Rookie Steven Stamkos traded punches with Nikolai Zherdev in his first NHL fight, and Evgeny Artyukhin crashed into anything that moved.
Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet on Wednesday told his players, basically, get tough or they could go home, and they responded … for the most part.
The Lightning still lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Atlantic leaders to finish a 0-3-1 season series. But Tampa Bay (6-8-7 and on a 2-5-4 streak) showed more spunk and grit than it any game this season.
For a team coming off a deplorable effort Sunday against the Devils, it was a notable turnaround, and Mark Recchi's tying goal with 49.6 seconds left in the third period came on a deflection in front of the net, just where Tocchet has demanded his players go more often.
Still, Tocchet graded his players as a B-minus going to the net and added, "We're just having a tough time scoring goals. We've got to roll up our sleeves and keep going to work."
That work has to include improvement in shootouts.
The Lightning, which got a point for the regulation tie, is 1-5 in shootouts and 2-7 in games that have gone to overtime.
Radim Vrbata and Jussi Jokinen failed to beat New York's Henrik Lundqvist. Markus Naslund, who also had the Rangers' two goals, and Zherdev bested Mike Smith for a 2-0 victory.
The Lightning goalie has allowed 11 goals on 20 shootout attempts. Otherwise, Smith shined in his first game back after missing one because of an irritated abdominal nerve. He stopped Chris Drury's breakaway with 3:39 left in overtime and made 33 saves as New York held a 35-29 shot advantage.
There were other blips. Captain Vinny Lecavalier had zero shots for the first time this season, and Ryan Malone, despite his second goal in as many games, made two mistakes. His tripping penalty led to Naslund's power-play goal that gave New York a 2-1 lead with 2:03 left in the second period, and his cross-checking penalty with 9:39 left in the third wiped out a Lightning power play.
The Lightning was outshot 11-5 in the first period but outhit New York 12-4.
Artyukhin had four hits, and his check on Blair Betts late in the period prompted Orr to tackle him in retaliation and sparked a mini melee.
Stamkos had three hits and threw down heartily with Zherdev after running Zherdev into the boards with a clean hit.
The Rangers broke through 2:40 into the second period with Naslund's goal off a rebound of Michal Rozsival's shot from the high slot.
The Lightning answered 89 seconds later with Malone's power-play goal. The Lightning outshot New York 15-10 and kept up the physical pressure.
Tocchet insisted his message, which also included a plea to his players to get themselves and the puck to the net, was not about fighting.
"It was an intense game, and that's going to happen," Tocchet said. "The intensity I'm talking about is coming up with loose pucks, going to the net.
"It's still a work in progress. Overall, the guys worked hard."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Rangers win shootout 2-0|
|Rangers win shootout 2-0|
First Period—None. Penalties—Tampa Bay bench, served by Krajicek (too many men), 3:18; Vrbata, TB (hooking), 6:19; Zherdev, NYR (hooking), 6:56; Zherdev, NYR, major (fighting), 15:14; Stamkos, TB, major (fighting), 15:14; Orr, NYR, served by Voros, double minor (roughing), 18:31; Artyukhin, TB (roughing), 18:31.
Second Period—1, N.Y. Rangers, Naslund 8 (Rozsival, Zherdev), 2:40. 2, Tampa Bay, Malone 5 (Lecavalier, Eminger), 4:09 (pp). 3, N.Y. Rangers, Naslund 9 (Rozsival, Zherdev), 17:57 (pp). Penalties—Fritsche, NYR (hooking), 3:59; Krajicek, TB (high-sticking), 6:54; Orr, NYR, major (fighting), 13:37; Koci, TB, major (fighting), 13:37; Malone, TB (hooking), 16:58.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Recchi 5 (St. Louis, Meszaros), 19:10. Penalties—Sjostrom, NYR (holding), 2:21; Hall, TB (interference), 5:05; Staal, NYR (tripping), 9:49; Malone, TB (cross-checking), 10:21; Redden, NYR (tripping), 16:15.
Shootout—N.Y. Rangers 2 (Naslund G, Zherdev G), Tampa Bay 0 (Vrbata NG, Jokinen NG). Shots on Goal—N.Y. Rangers 11-10-11-3—35. Tampa Bay 5-15-9-0—29. Power-play opportunities—N.Y. Rangers 1 of 6; Tampa Bay 1 of 6. Goalies—N.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 14-5-2 (29 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 5-4-6 (35-33). A—16,991 (19,758). T—2:38. Referees—Rob Martell, Brad Meier. Linesmen—Scott Cherrey, Jonny Murray.