NEW YORK, N.Y. – Road wins are rarely finely tuned masterpieces in the NHL.
Grinding, scraping, clawing are usually the best methods for leaving enemy ice with two points. It’s been so long since the Tampa Bay Lightning left home, they can be forgiven for forgetting what it’s like to muscle their way to a road victory.
Skating on slushy ice in a Sunday matinee, Martin St. Louis had a goal and assist, and Vincent Lecavalier snapped a third-period tie during a two-man power play to lift Tampa Bay to a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers in the Lightning’s first road game in more than a month.
Fresh off a 7-3-2 homestand, the Lightning were led by St. Louis, who scored in the first period and set up Lecavalier’s 15th goal that made it 2-1. Tampa Bay, second in the Eastern Conference, played on the road for the first time since Jan. 21.
“It’s the ugliest win of the year. It’s the ugliest game of the year. Period,” coach Guy Boucher said. “Guys falling, tripping, pucks over sticks, it was horrible. It was certainly not a game to look at to find nice clips. The only positive thing that comes out of it is that we fought hard mentally to make it happen.”
Dwayne Roloson stopped 22 shots as the Lightning completed a four-game sweep of the Rangers, a potential first-round playoff opponent. Tampa Bay has consecutive 2-1 wins, including a Friday victory over New Jersey, its next opponent on Wednesday.
“Roli is phenomenal and Marty is a machine,” Lecavalier said. “He is skating like he is 22 years old. Those two old guys are doing very well for us.”
Brandon Prust scored a short-handed goal in the second period for New York, which had a two-game winning streak snapped. Henrik Lundqvist made 17 saves.
The Rangers held the Lightning to 1-for-6 on the power play, but the 5-on-3 advantage was the difference.
“It is pretty obvious why we lost. We took way too many penalties,” Lundqvist said. “The penalty kill was outstanding, but you can only kill so many penalties.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella was far less diplomatic. He blasted the officials in a profanity-laced post-game rant, clearly showing frustration after his seventh-place club gave away two points.
“It’s a tough one,” he said. “They give them a 5-on-3 on a (bad) call. I just wish the league would stay the hell out of it and let the teams decide it. There is too much at stake here.”
The Rangers welcomed defenceman Bryan McCabe, who made his debut with the team after being acquired from Florida on Saturday, but they were again without top-line forward Marian Gaborik (concussion), stalwart defenceman Marc Staal (knee) and forward Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder).
After having three straight power plays in the first period, the Rangers were short-handed six consecutive times. It turned costly when Dan Girardi (boarding) and Brian Boyle (delay of game) were sent off 53 seconds apart in the third.
Boucher used his timeout and the move worked when St. Louis sent a pass to Lecavalier in the right circle for a one-timer that beat Lundqvist at 2:40.
“It’s a must. You can’t not score there and expect to win the game,” St. Louis said.
The power-play streak was broken with 6:48 left when Lightning defenceman Brett Clark was called for holding, but Tampa Bay killed the penalty.
Prust got the Rangers even 9:42 into the second period when he crashed the net with the puck on a breakaway and shoved a shot and Roloson into the cage. Roloson complained as the goal was reviewed by video replay and allowed to stand.
The Rangers tied Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for the NHL lead with 10 short-handed goals. Tampa Bay dropped into a tie with Buffalo, having given up a league-worst 11 goals while on a power play. Prust has scored four of his 10 goals while New York was short-handed.
Off a 3-on-2 rush up ice, Steve Downie fed a pass into the right circle to St. Louis, who fired a one-timer from a tough angle that beat Lundqvist between the pads for his 24th goal of the season.
The Lightning locked down the Rangers all period, holding New York to just four shots in the period despite giving up three powerplays. Brandon Dubinsky had the only real scoring chance in the first for New York with a drive from the slot that hit Roloson and caromed off both posts in the final minute.
The pace—and the hard-hitting—picked up in the second. This time it was the Lightning who had all three power-play chances, but couldn’t convert. After racking up only seven shots in the first, Tampa Bay was held to five in the second and gave up nine.
“It was not a game we’re going to put into our best games,” Boucher said, “that’s for sure.”
Notes: Prust has two goals in three games. He has six short-handed points this season. … St. Louis has a nine-game point streak (four goals, nine assists). … Lecavalier reached the 15-goal mark for the 11th time in 12 NHL seasons. … Tampa Bay swept the season series for the first time since 1996-97.