NEW YORK – While one New York Rangers offensive outburst looked like a fluke, scoring has suddenly become a trend.
Vinny Prospal had a goal and assist in New York’s big first period, and linemate Marian Gaborik tied a career high with four assists as the Rangers used their resurgent offence to overpower the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-2 on Tuesday night.
New York, which scored a total of five goals in five games before Sunday’s 6-2 home win against Montreal, had three in the first period, two in the second, and three more in the third against the Lightning – chasing goalie Antero Niittymaki from the net.
“It feels great scoring eight goals, especially after the big win we had here the previous game,” Prospal said. “It feels great that we were able to, right from the start, shut them down and run up the score.”
The Rangers, 10-3-4 in their past 17 games, are sixth in the Eastern Conference – one point behind Ottawa.
“They are all important games,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “We just want to concentrate on our game and continue to find ways to get points.”
Brandon Dubinsky started his team’s biggest scoring night of the season with a power-play tally 1:26 in, and Prospal and Chris Drury followed to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Dan Girardi and Enver Lisin scored in the second as New York went ahead 5-1 despite recording only 20 shots on Niittymaki.
Including the final two periods Sunday and the first one Tuesday, the Rangers scored three times in three straight periods. Eight players had goals, and 16 of New York’s 18 skaters had at least one point. The Rangers came in averaging just over 2.5 goals a game.
“It was one of those nights where everything was going in,” said Gaborik, who didn’t add to his team-leading 29 goals. “We deserved it. We haven’t been scoring that many goals lately.”
Rangers defenceman Marc Staal, Aaron Voros – during a power play – and Christopher Higgins pushed the Rangers’ lead to 8-2 in the third against backup goalie Dustin Tokarski. Voros’ goal was his first in 52 games, dating to Nov. 28, 2008. New York scored at least six goals at home in consecutive games for the first time since November 2003.
Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his 22nd win. He got the better of Niittymaki in a rematch of the 2006 Olympic gold medal game also won by Lundqvist and Sweden over Finland.
Vinny Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay, who posted his eighth goal during a 5-on-3 power play in the second period, provided the offence for Tampa Bay. The Lightning were coming off a 3-2 win at Carolina on Monday, but fell to 4-2-1 in the second of back-to-back games – with all seven on the road.
The Lightning held a lengthy post-game team meeting after losing for the fifth time in eight games. Tampa Bay is 13th in the East with 33 games remaining.
“We could’ve scored a few more, but any time you allow three, four, five, six, seven, eight goals, you’re not going to win,” Tanguay said. “We keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ve got to find a way to get back in the thick of things. … The playoff race is quickly going to slip out of hand if we don’t wake up.”
Niittymaki made his sixth straight start in place of the injured Mike Smith, who is sidelined by a neck injury. Tokarski made his second NHL appearance since being recalled from Norfolk of the American Hockey League on Jan. 14 and stopped eight of 11 shots.
“The only thing we did, was the bus was on time to get to this game,” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. “The bus driver was the best thing we had.”
Building off the momentum the Rangers created after erasing an early 2-0 deficit Sunday, they jumped all over the Lightning.
Just 10 seconds in, Voros fought Zenon Konopka in a long bout. Just over a minute later, Dubinsky made it 1-0 when he backhanded in a rebound of his shot after a pass from Prospal. Dubinsky has three goals and two assists in two games.
Prospal doubled the lead at 7:05 when he finished a 2-on-1 with Gaborik.
The Lightning got within 2-1 at 17:21 when Lecavalier banked in a shot off Higgins after Higgins had knocked Tanguay into the net as play continued.
But New York responded 1:12 later with Drury’s eighth of the season and second in two games.
“They played great,” Tocchet said of the Rangers. “They outhit us, they outplayed us, they out-everything. They outcoached. Every facet of the game, they outdid.”
Girardi made it 4-1 at 5:23 of the second when his snap shot from the right point caromed high off the foot of Lightning defenceman Andrej Meszaros and past a frustrated Niittymaki, who slammed his stick. Lisin then fired in a loose puck with 4:21 left in the second to end Niittymaki’s night.
Staal scored 6:04 into the third, Voros made it 7-2 at 11:11, and Higgins ended the onslaught at 16:32.
NOTES: The Rangers hadn’t scored three goals in three straight periods since a four-period run on Nov. 7-10, 1998 that included all three periods of a 10-2 win at Tampa Bay. … Tokarski stopped all five shots he faced in his NHL debut on Jan. 16 at Florida, a one-period relief stint of a 5-2 loss. … Gaborik’s other four-assist game was Oct. 26, 2002.