I had a bad feeling about this game. Yes the Lightning played last night but they scored EIGHT goals. Yes it was against the Jets, but they were averaging 5.29 goals a game this season so that wasn’t a one-time thing. Then I heard Marty Biron was getting his first start. Look, Marty is a great backup goalie. He is. I was thrilled when the Rangers re-signed him. But against Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos and crew? I wasn’t convinced this would end well.
Well, I was wrong.
The first period saw a lot of back and forth action including a lot of odd man rushes for both teams but both goalies were up to the task stopping everything they saw. Shots were 11-8 in favor of the Rangers so to say it was a better period than anything that took place Thursday would be an understatement. It was also a clean period as there were no penalties called.
Second period brought a little more action as both teams got on the scoreboard.
First, it was Tampa on the power play after Bickel took a hooking penalty. And I’m going to go on a little rant on this one. Yes, Bickel is not the best player on the team and he most definitely isn’t a forward which is where the Rangers have been playing him. It was a light call but he hooked the Lightning player so it was a penalty which was dumb on his part when he was already getting minimal ice time. That said, can someone please tell me what Nash was doing on the goal? He’s playing with the puck trying to dipsy-doodle it out of the zone on the penalty kill. Of course Tampa was going to take it away and put it in the back of the net. And how was Stamkos left all alone in the slot? Look, Bickel is far from perfect but I think blame needs to be spread out on that one Rangers fans.
Moving along, four and a half minutes later it was Tampa getting called for a light hooking call. Of course the Rangers power kill showed up and got nothing going. (Side note: Why were Lightning fans booing? I mean Rangers fans agree and usually do the same but still.) Right at the end of the power kill, the Rangers managed to get the puck into the offensive zone and while Hagelin missed on his initial shot, Stepan buried the rebound for his first goal in 21 games (dating back to last season). Not going to lie, he was due for one so great to see him get that monkey off his back.
Three minutes later, the Lightning thought they had taken the lead but it was immediately waived off for being batted in with a high stick. On replay, the stick was definitely above the crossbar. The refs get a lot of slack (and deservedly so after some of the calls that have taken place this year, I’m looking at you Ian Walsh for that call in St. Louis last night) so bravo on them for getting that one right.
The remainder of the period was more back and forth action similar to the first period but once again both goalies were up to the task.
About three minutes into the third period, Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti were talking on the MSG broadcast about Rick Nash and Micheletti said he was due to score and expected him to do so tonight. That very same play, Nash took the puck in center ice and pushed his way to the net where he buried the puck to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. I kid you not when I say it was less than a minute of real time, not game play, between when Micheletti made the comment and when Nash scored.
My immediate response was to ask if Micheletti could predict a Hagelin goal as he was more than due for one. I missed it but he predicted that as well and it worked again as a little less than twelve minutes later, Hagelin took a pass from Pyatt and pushed it right through Garon’s five hole to get his first goal of the season and first since March 15, 2012. Yes, I understand there was the offseason and lockout included in that time frame but that’s still a long time.
After the goal, that line (Stepan, Hagelin and Pyatt) got back to the bench and each received a fist bump from Torts. They deserved it as they were flying the entire game. Let’s just hope they keep it up while the Rangers wait for Kreider and Callahan to get healthy.
The Lightning added another goal with roughly twenty seconds to go but that was all they could get as the Rangers won their first game on the road this year 3-2. It also gave Taylor Pyatt his first win over his younger brother, ex-Rangers draft pick Tom Pyatt (who was originally part of the Gomez trade), in three tries.
As for the game itself, I need to stop doubting Biron and the coaching staff for their decisions because Marty was superb in this game. And that second line, as I already stated, was on fire. This is the team I know and love. This is the team I knew was in New York which is why I haven’t been worried. Now please, please, please keep it up for at least the next two games. I can’t take losing to the Devils or Islanders.