The Lightning can out-score their opponents as they did against the Phoenix Coyotes last week or they can beat you defensively, as they did to the Devils on Friday.
They even win games on the road when playing bad hockey as they did Sunday against the Rangers. The Lightning was out-shot 23-19, turned the puck over 15 times, and lost 65 percent of the face-offs in the game but managed to score the first and last goal of the game, holding on for a hard fought 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers.
The win earned the Bolts the season series sweep over the Rangers.
Playing on the road for the first time since January-21, the Bolts wasted little time in scoring first. Lately, Tampa seems to be getting that all-important first goal of the game that is so crucial this time of the season.
They have scored first 36 times this season and when doing so, have collected at least one point 29 times. Even more impressive is when the Bolts allow the first goal, as they have done 26 times this season. After allowing the first marker of the game, the Lightning has managed points in 15 of those contests, fourth best in the NHL.
The Bolts struck just 5:04 into the first period as Martin St. Louis at a tough angle slapped home a one timer from Steve Downie to give the Lightning the 1-0 lead.
The shot beat Rangers starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist five hole, giving St. Louis his 24th of the season and fourth in his last three games. “I think we started pretty good,” St. Louis said. “I wasn’t even aiming for the five hole, I was just trying to put the puck on net. It was a pretty heavy shot.”
Special teams would factor in the next two goals as the Rangers would score shorthanded and the Bolts would net a five-on-three marker.
Sloppy puck handling by the Lightning’s captain Vincent Lecavalier along the half boards in their own zone led to a crucial turnover and shorthanded goal by the Rangers. Brian Boyle worked the puck free form the careless Captain as Ryan McDonagh fed the outlet pass to a breaking Brandon Prust. Prust made a move on Bolts defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who went for the man and missed, leaving him one-on-one with Roloson.
Rolo made the initial stop but Prust forced himself and the puck into the net to tie the game at one goal each. Roloson argued but the goal stood.
The shorthanded goal would be the 11th allowed by Tampa this season, which is most in the NHL. The Rangers are tied with three teams for the most shorthanded goals scored as Boyle’s SH marker was the teams tenth of the season.
The game would remain tied into the third period, but not long into the final stanza. The Lightning found themselves with a two-man advantage a little over two minutes into the third period. Dan Girardi was called for boarding and in a penalty kill-clearing attempt; Brian Boyle flipped the puck over the glass picking up a delay of game penalty.
36 seconds after Boyle took the gate, team captain Vincent Lecavalier made up for his turnover which led to the Rangers shorthanded game tying goal, by scoring what turned out to be the eventual game winner. In almost the exact same spot as St. Louis scored, Lecavalier slapped home his 15th goal of the season, a one timer from St Louis to put the Bolts ahead 2-1.
“I felt bad,” Lecavalier said about the turnover leading to the tying goal. “It doesn’t matter who scores, but to get it back, really good.”
Lecavalier now has seven goals in nine games to match his 15 points over a 12 game stretch. With the assist on the goal Martin St. Louis is also on a tear lately. His goal earlier in the game extended his points scoring streak to nine games as he has four goals and nine assist over that same nine game span.
The Rangers threw everything but their skates and sticks at Roloson in the final two minutes but the 41-year-old Lightning veteran stood tall, preserving the one goal lead. Rolson collected his 18th win of the season and his 12th in a Lightning sweater.
As the playoffs approach and the Lightning appear likely to be headed for the Southeast division crown, finishing games off and holding one-goal leads on the road are huge for a team and its confidence.
“At the beginning of the year we were great at closing out close games,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “That’s what games in the playoffs are going to be like, and that’s what we want.”