Rangers end 2021 with statement win over Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. — The Rangers rung in the new year with a statement win — even if it was in a shootout.

Much has been made of the Rangers’ inability to step up against top-tier competition this season, but they pulled out a 4-3 win on the road over the reigning two-time Stanley Cup champions, the Lightning, at Amalie Arena on Friday night to end 2021 on a major high note.

Mika Zibanejad was the only player to score in the skills competition.

The win came against a Lightning squad that was without its star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is in COVID-19 protocol. And after backup netminder Brian Elliott essentially handed the Rangers’ two goals, it was clear just how much they missed Vasilevskiy. Tampa was also without Anthony Cirelli (COVID-19 protocol), Zach Bogosian and Erik Cernak (both lower-body injuries).

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Barlcay Goodrow celebrates a goal for the Rangers on Friday night.
AP

Tied at 2-2 at the start of the third period, both teams came out a bit sloppy and struggled to put anything on net. After a faceoff win from Ryan Strome later in the period, K’Andre Miller wristed the puck from the top of the circle and Barclay Goodrow tipped it in for his second goal of the night and the 3-2 lead at 13:35.

Tampa then pulled Elliott for the six-on-five advantage and forward Corey Perry put it in from right in front of the crease to tie the game for a third time.

The Rangers were fortunate to only be down a goal heading into the second period, after they registered just three shots on net through the first 20 minutes. Their good fortune continued, when Julien Gauthier’s pressure forced Elliot to cough up the puck right to Alexis Lafreniere for the wide-open shot to knot the game 1-1 at 5:30.

Rejuvenated by the goal, the Rangers suddenly had a bit more jump in their game. Though it was Elliott who, once again, made a bizarre play that led to the Blueshirts’ second tally.

Elliott came all the way to the outer edge of the faceoff circle to play the puck while his team was on the power play, but flubbed a cross-ice pass right to Greg McKegg. Barclay Goodrow was in optimal position when he received the puck from McKegg and went five-hole on Elliott at 14:30 for the 2-1 shorthanded score against his former team, just hours after receiving his second Stanley Cup ring.

Mika Zibanejad
The Rangers celebrate Mika Zibanejad’s winning goal in the shootout on Friday night.
AP

The Lightning, however, answered just over three minutes later. On a three-on-two rush, Ross Colton one-timed the puck top shelf on Rangers’ goalie Igor Shesterkin to even the score again.

It was a dull first period for the Rangers, who didn’t register their first even-strength shot on goal until over 17 ½ minutes into the game. After giving up a prime shorthanded chance to Lightning winger Alex Killorn on their lone power play in the opening 20 minutes, the Rangers took two penalties of their own and were hemmed in their zone each time.

Ryan Reaves was lured into a roughing penalty by Perry at 18:15, and six seconds later, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos ripped one from the top of the left circle for the 1-0 lead.