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Rangers fall to Lightning, former teammates in home finale

The Rangers and the Lightning mix it up

The Rangers and the Lightning mix it up late in the second period at Madison Square Garden on Friday, March30, 2018. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The video highlights of the three visiting players rolled and the cheers flowed from the Garden stands Friday night. The package closed with a shot of the three standing together on the ice in their old blue jerseys with two words above them: Thank You.

Then came Rangers vs. Rangers South — the East-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, which has five former Rangers, including the three who were returning for the first time. Captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller left on trade deadline day, Feb. 26, and Dan Girardi departed after last season.

The threesome received the pregame tribute and the postgame satisfaction from a victory. Miller and Girardi each scored in the Lightning’s 7-3 win over the rebuilding Rangers in their home finale.

“It was a pretty cool reception they had for us three,” Miller said. “It was fortunate we were able to come in here and get two points . . . It was definitely emotional for sure.”

McDonagh and Girardi walked to the Garden after a stop at Starbucks. Several fans approached them.

“It was really nice, thanking us for all the years here,” Girardi said.

The defensemen didn’t know where to go once they arrived at their old home. Anyone know how to get to the visitors’ dressing room?

“I never imagined myself having to go through something like this,” McDonagh said. “But now that it is taking place, you remember everything you gave for this organization and everything the organization did for you and your family, too. And obviously the fan base here.”

Mats Zuccarello was sad when the eighth-year vet left. The 30-year-old wing had to play against one of his best friends.

“I miss him when I look around the locker room,” Zuccarello said.

The Rangers bought out the final three years of Girardi’s contract. But this return meant a lot.

“I had a great time here for 11 years; my blood, sweat and tears,” Girardi said. “Bled blue for 11 years.”

Now he’s paired again with McDonagh. Girardi has five goals and 16 points and is plus-17 in 73 games. McDonagh has two goals and is minus-one in 10 games. Miller has nine goals and 16 points in 15 games.

“He’s fit in great,” McDonagh said.

The Rangers acquired Vladislav Namestnikov, two prospects and two picks for McDonagh and Miller. More moves are surely coming. Zuccarello doesn’t want to be going.

“I love it here,” Zuccarello said. “I’m proud to be a Ranger.”

Zuccarello is enthused about the young players and the future, saying, “I think we’re going to be good next year.”

Notes & Quotes: Filip Chytil scored his first NHL goal for the Rangers . . . Henrik Lundqvist won the fan vote for the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.

New York Sports