Coming off of a victory against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning won their third straight game on Sunday after visiting the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden in their final match-up of the season. The win gave the Lightning their first season sweep of the Rangers since 1996-97.
For the Rangers, this loss–following their 6-0 win over the Washington Capitals Friday night–comes at a bad time. They are not in any kind of a safe position to remain in the top eight of the Eastern Conference. There are plenty of teams barreling down the final stretch to win any of those final spots left in the Eastern conference playoff race.
The Rangers are currently the seventh seed. Right now, anything is possible, including losing that opportunity to be in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
In Sunday’s game, the Rangers welcomed defenseman Bryan McCabe, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers on Saturday in exchange for Tim Kennedy and a third round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. This gamed marked the former Panthers captain first game as a Blueshirt.
“Obviously I have a lot of roots here,” McCabe said before the game. “We (family) spend our summers in Long Island. My wife was born and raised here, so it’s pretty much home. As I said yesterday, three years ago, when I was on my way out of Toronto, this was one of the teams I really wanted to come to, and things didn’t work out. But I’m glad they did now. I’m really exited to be here.”
Calling Madison Square Garden his new home, brings with it some excitement in the air.
“Obviously there’s always an atmosphere and a buzz,” he said about MSG. “It’s one of the best buildings in the world. It’s been a lot of fun (playing here in the past). Obviously, they have a good team here and a great goaltender. I just hope to bring some veteran presence and leadership. Obviously, they have a young team, so hopefully I can help out with that.”
“I’m just here to play it out and have fun and hopefully make a run in the playoffs and chase a Cup,” he said of his plans for this season and beyond. “I’m getting down to the dog years here, so hopefully it’s a long run (in the playoffs).”
Could this be McCabe’s final season? Only time will tell for this 35-year-old veteran.
His first game as a Blueshirt didn’t bring any special luck for the Rangers. Martin St. Louis scored the first goal of the game at 5:04 in the first period. This marked the Lightning’s fourth consecutive game where they scored the game’s first goal.
With three power plays in the first period, the Rangers were not able to generate a goal until the second stanza when Erik Christensen headed to the penalty box at 8:39 on an interference call. While on the penalty kill, Ryan McDonagh and Brian Boyle were able to steal the puck away from the Lightning down along the boards. With a pass up to Brandon Prust, he headed down into the Lightning’s zone. He didn’t stop until the puck was in the net, knocking Tampa Bay’s goalie Dwayne Roloson out of his own net.
With the play under review, the puck was found to be in the net before Prust ran Roloson out of the net, marking the short-handed goal a good goal at 9:42.
The Rangers struggled to stay out of the penalty box through most of the second period and on through the final stanza. They paid for it when Dan Girardi went to the penalty box at 1:11 for boarding in the third period, followed by Boyle for delay of game at 2:04. Tampa Bay called a timeout after Boyle’s penalty and 36 seconds later, Vincent Lecavalier tallied the game-winner at 2:40.
The Rangers were never able to battle back to pick up another goal, especially after heading to the penalty box six times during the contest. The loss cost them two points in the race to the playoffs.
“I think it is pretty obvious why we lost,” Rangers’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “We took way too many penalties. I thought the penalty kill was outstanding but you can only kill so many penalties. We did a lot of good things. We had some really big chances in the end but it wasn’t enough.
“Every game feels intense right now. It is very important to get points. Playing a team like this, with so many skilled players, you have to be physical. They turned the puck over and we had chances.”
As far as McCabe’s first game as a Ranger, he had some positive things to say about his new club.
“It is a hard working team,” he said. “It is a meat and potatoes team – they are going to work their butts off. When you have a great goalie, you are going to have a chance to win every night. We just have to find a way to score.”