TAMPA — Coach Rick Tocchet said a team meeting Friday morning focused on shoring up the mental lapses and sloppy play that plagued the Lightning in Wednesday's loss to the Maple Leafs.
"Tonight," Tocchet predicted before Friday's game against the Rangers, "I think you'll see a different team."
The Lightning delivered a more inspired and consistent effort in a 5-1 win, chasing goalie Henrik Lundqvist and spoiling former coach John Tortorella's return in front of 17,608 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I think this was the best 60-minute hockey game we played all season," winning goaltender Mike Smith said. "That's what we have to do every game. If we play like that, we'll win a lot of games."
Unlike Wednesday, Tampa Bay (10-6-7) dictated the tempo, aggressively forechecking a young Rangers blue line and playing a physical, smarter game. Even captain Vinny Lecavalier got into the chippy action, throwing punches at Rangers left wing Sean Avery in a small first-period scrum.
"I'm not going to dissect the game tonight because we were outplayed," Tortorella said. "We stunk tonight! It was an embarrassing loss! Let's leave it at that."
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 first-period lead. Steven Stamkos scored the first goal seven minutes in, getting a pass from Marty St. Louis in the right circle and ripping a shot through Lundqvist.
St. Louis also set up the next two Tampa Bay goals, both on the power play. In the final minute of the first, St. Louis got the puck to Kurtis Foster above the left circle. Foster, who has one of the hardest shots on the team, blasted a shot past Lundqvist to make it 2-0.
"It was an absolute rocket," Stamkos said. "I don't think Lundqvist even saw it."
Eight minutes into the second, St. Louis had the puck low, skated toward the crease and craftily lifted a pass over the stick of Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto right to Steve Downie, who put it past Lundqvist.
After the Lightning's scrappy fourth line of Downie, James Wright and Paul Szczechura produced the fourth goal — by Szczechura, 12:25 into the second — Tortorella pulled Lundqvist.
Tampa Bay added a goal midway through the third, when Foster ripped a wrist shot off a faceoff past Steve Valiquette. Because of a crowded blue line, Tocchet has played Foster at forward the past three games, and Foster has three goals in that span.
Smith came up big, making some great saves, including on a two-on-one in the first period. He had 26 for the game.
"We just outworked them, outplayed them in their end," Stamkos said. "Right from the get-go, you could tell we had definitely one of our better games of the year."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 16 (St. Louis, Hedman), 6:54. 2, Tampa Bay, Foster 2 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 19:24 (pp). Penalties—Avery, NYR (roughing), 3:24; Lecavalier, TB, double minor (roughing), 3:24; Szczechura, TB (tripping), 16:22; Kotalik, NYR (charging), 17:32; Avery, NYR (high-sticking), 20:00; Hale, TB (roughing), 20:00.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Downie 3 (St. Louis, Stamkos), 8:05 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Szczechura 1 (Wright, Walker), 12:25. Penalties—Anisimov, NYR (high-sticking), 6:28; Boyle, NYR, major (fighting), 12:49; Walker, TB, major (fighting), 12:49.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Foster 3 (Konopka), 8:24. 6, N.Y. Rangers, Callahan 4 (Anisimov, Staal), 17:53. Penalties—Boyle, NYR, minor-major (boarding, fighting), 12:08; Konopka, TB, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting), 12:08; Brashear, NYR, double minor-misconduct (roughing), 14:15; Walker, TB, minor-misconduct (roughing), 14:15; Stamkos, TB (holding), 14:15. Shots on Goal—N.Y. Rangers 9-9-9—27. Tampa Bay 12-10-9—31. Power-play opportunities—N.Y. Rangers 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 2 of 2. Goalies—N.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 11-9-1 (22 shots-18 saves), Valiquette (12:25 second, 9-8). Tampa Bay, Smith 4-4-4 (27-26). A—17,608 (19,758). T—2:36. Referees—Dan Marouelli, Steve Kozari. Linesmen—Jonny Murray, Mark Shewchyk.