TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher sounded as though the Lightning had lost even though they extended their winning streak to five.
A bad third period can do that.
Steven Stamkos scored his NHL-leading 21st goal and had two assists, and the Lightning beat the New York Rangers 5-3 on Wednesday night.
The Lightning held a 5-0 lead entering the final frame, but a lacklustre final 20 minutes, in which New York scored three times, left Boucher in a foul mood.
“It’s a lack of respect for the opponent, a lack of respect for our standards,” Boucher said. “Everything in the third period just showed that we lacked respect. Unacceptable, and the players know it. It leaves a real bad taste.”
Stamkos also has 17 assists for a league-leading 38 points in 22 games. The centre has had a point in all but three games.
“It’s a win, five in a row, and we take pride in that,” Stamkos said. “We definitely don’t feel as good as we would have after our play in the third.”
Ryan Malone added two goals for the Lightning. He entered with just three goals in 33 previous games against the Rangers.
New York, which had won five of seven, got third-period goals from Steve Eminger, Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan. The Rangers went more than 15 minutes without a shot from late in the first period until well into the second, and were outshot 25-7 through 40 minutes.
“We just looked brain dead through the first part of the game,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “Why? I don’t know.”
Stamkos gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead at 4:53 of the second period from the low slot off a pass from Steve Downie during a 3-on-1 break. He assisted on Malone’s power-play goals during the first period.
New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist (7-8-1) had another rough night in his return to the net. He allowed five goals on 34 shots.
“It seems like when he’s played, we haven’t played very well in front of him and it’s not fair for him,” Rangers centre Brandon Dubinsky said.
Backup goalie Martin Biron started the previous two games after replacing Lundqvist last Friday in New York’s 5-1 loss at Colorado.
Malone put the Lightning ahead 1-0 with an in-close, power-play goal at 7:06 of the first. It ended a stretch of 24 consecutive short-handed situations that New York had killed.
Tampa Bay then converted its second power play of the game to make it 2-0. Malone scored a rebound goal from the low slot with 4:23 left in the first.
The Rangers have trailed after the first period three times—all losses—in 23 games this season.
Brett Clark, on the power play, and Victor Hedman had second-period goals as Tampa Bay took a 5-0 lead. Hedman snapped his 54-game goal drought, dating to Jan. 6 against Buffalo.
Eminger ended goalie Mike Smith’s shutout bid with his first goal in 21 games early in the third. Boyle later scored a short-handed goal before Stepan added a power-play tally with 1:04 left.
Smith faced 20 shots, including 13 during the third.
Rangers forward Sean Avery got an instigator penalty, a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct midway through the third. Mattias Ohlund had a hard check on New York’s Erik Christensen, which prompted Avery to go after the Lightning defenceman, who received just a fighting penalty
NOTES: Stamkos has nine assists and 19 points on the power play. “He plays for the right reasons,” Boucher said before the game. “He loves playing the game just to play the game. If you gave him two cents, he would play the same.” … Tampa Bay LW Simon Gagne sat out for the 16th consecutive game due to a neck injury. Boucher said Gagne might play Friday at Washington. … New York D Michal Rozsival missed his eighth game because of a strained shoulder. He also might return this weekend.