TAMPA, Fla. — Not that the Rangers didn’t know this before they saw them up close and personal Monday night, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are legit.
Too legit for a team like the Rangers to have a chance if they keep taking penalties as they did Monday.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had a hat trick, including two power play goals, and Tampa Bay roared past the Rangers in the final two periods, powering their way to a 6-3 victory that extended their win streak to seven games and pushed their overall record to 24-7-1 on the season. The Rangers (14-13-3) ended their only trip to Florida this season with a split of the two games, following their shootout win Saturday night over the Florida Panthers. The Rangers flew home after the game, and they play next on Friday, when they host the Arizona Coyotes.
Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh — one of four ex-Rangers and two ex-Ranger captains in the Tampa Bay lineup and the most recent Rangers captain — scored a goal for each team, though his goal for the Lightning, midway through the second period, broke a 2-2 tie and gave the hosts their first lead of the game. J.T. Miller, another ex-Ranger, had two assists, and also a hit on Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk that injured him and forced him out of the game. Rangers coach David Quinn said he didn’t have an update on Shattenkirk, who left the building with his left arm in a sling.
Tampa Bay, which won for the 10th time in the last 11 games, went 2-for-6 on the power play. The Rangers had just one power play. That kind of discrepancy can’t happen, Quinn said.
“If we’re going to have a chance, night in and night out, we can’t have that discrepancy in power plays,’’ Quinn said. “You can’t be 10 minutes shorthanded, more than the other team . . . especially against this team. If you’re going to have a chance to beat them, you can’t even come close to having that discrepancy in the penalties.’’
“We give them six power plays, we play right into their hands,’’ Mika Zibanejad said. “I thought we did a good job five-on-five. Obviously, the power play kills us.’’
McDonagh, traded to Tampa Bay along with Miller at last season’s trading deadline for a package that included Vladislav Namestnikov, Brett Howden, prospect defenseman Libor Hajek, a 2018 first round pick and a conditional 2019 first rounder, said he is still close with a lot of the Rangers players and follows his old team and wishes them well. He did his old buddies a favor when he deflected a Kevin Hayes backhander past Louis Domingue for the first goal of the game at 12:19 of the first period.
Tampa tied it, 1-1 when, with Marc Staal sitting out an interference penalty against Nikita Kucherov, Stamkos hammered a one-timer past Henrik Lundqvist at 14:09. The Rangers regained the lead just 58 seconds later, though, when Hayes scored his second goal of the game, whacking in the rebound of a Jimmy Vesey shot for his seventh goal of the season.
But Tampa Bay struck like, well, lightning in the second period, scoring two goals to take the lead and control of the game. The first was another power play goal by Stamkos, on another one-timer, this time at 6:19 of the second, with Neal Pionk serving a tripping penalty. They took the lead when McDonagh beat Lundqvist (30 saves) with a shot from the top of the left circle that the goalie got a clean look at and no doubt should have stopped.
Goals by Anthony Cirelli and Stamkos midway through the third period put Tampa Bay up, 5-2, before Jesper Fast jammed in a two-on-one pass from Filip Chytil to make it 5-3 at 17:34. Cirelli added an empty-netter with 38.8 seconds left.