Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa was full on Mar. 6 as the Lightning took on the New York Rangers in a heated Eastern Conference Matchup. The stands were lined with hometown jerseys, but proud Rangers fans stayed together in small groups as they cheered on the out of town team. In what was an uneventful game for most of the night, the fans never went quiet during the entire 64 minutes the teams were on the ice.
The goalies on both sides performed admirably, but only Antti Raanta came out the winner. Both teams remained scoreless throughout the three regulation periods, thanks to some incredible saves by both goaltenders.
For most of the game, it was a hostile environment on the ice as there was a fight early in the first period, followed by a few more scuffles broken up by the referees throughout the game. Each team earned its fair share of penalty minutes for some rough play during the action. Tampa compiled 15 penalty minutes, while New York had 19 penalty minutes, as totaled by ESPN. Even with a whopping nine power plays combined, neither team was able to capitalize on the opportunities that were given to them thanks to some great defensive play and limited scoring chances for each side.
The game progressed into three on three overtime as the teams both seemed to have an even amount of momentum to open up the extra time. The Rangers gained momentum by limiting the Lightning to only one shot on net in overtime. After about three and a half minutes, it seemed that the scoreless game was destined for a shootout. With only one minute left in overtime, Rangers Defenseman Ryan McDonagh received a lucky bounce in the defensive zone and passed the puck up to center ice where Forward Mika Zibanejad drove into the Tampa zone on a breakaway, he shot the puck just under the glove of Andrei Vasilevskiy, sealing a win for New York.
The win comes at a crucial time for the Rangers as they try to win a playoff spot in the competitive Metropolitan Division. New York is looking to make the playoffs for the seventh straight season, and even if the team doesn’t finish in the Top-3 in their division, the Blueshirts have a wild card spot almost guaranteed, according to ESPN.
Tampa could have really used that extra point by gaining a victory tonight, but they will still be happy with one point. According to ESPN, the Lightning sit just outside the Top-3 in the Atlantic Division, and must keep fighting for every point they can get in order to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After trading away star Goalie Ben Bishop and rugged Forward Brian Boyle last week, the team looks to be in rebuilding mode but still has plenty of talent to fight for a title this season.
Tampa’s situation is more do or die than the Rangers is, so stay tuned over the remaining few weeks to see if the Lighting will continue playing when the playoffs start in Apr.