TAMPA, Fla. — In their most complete defensive effort of the season, the Rangers went toe-to-toe with the highest-scoring team in the NHL on Thursday night and J.T. Miller scored at 1:19 of overtime to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1.
Miller went around Anton Stralman and beat goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had made 33 saves through regulation.
“They should have had six,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We were way too loose.”
The Rangers held the league’s two leading scorers, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, without a point.
“We were more aggressive on the forecheck and we were working together, all five,” defenseman Marc Staal said. “They’re so dangerous, our forward group had to be sharp. You can’t give that team speed through the neutral zone or you’ll get killed. After our win against Vegas, we felt it was a step in the right direction and wanted to back it up.”
It was the first of a two-game road trip in Florida and the Rangers’ first victory away from Madison Square Garden in four tries. With the back-to-back wins, they raised their record to 5-7-2. The Lightning fell to 10-2-2.
“I had to be on top of my game,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 27 saves. “We didn’t give up a goal in the first two minutes, which was good. Guys were more structured in front of me. They didn’t get second opportunities.”
The Lightning appeared to score at 3:01 of the third period to take a 2-1 lead, but the goal was waved off because Gabriel Dumont was in the crease after being nudged by Rangers defenseman Steven Kampfer. Cooper challenged the call, insisting after the game that it was incorrect, but a video review supported the on-ice decision.
“It was the right call,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Rangers had a goal disallowed in the second period. Michael Grabner’s shot went in past Jesper Fast’s screen at 2:38, but the play had been whistled dead because a high stick knocked a clearing pass down.
The Rangers were engaged from the start. They clogged the neutral zone, breaking up pass attempts and effectively blunting the Lightning’s forecheck.
Late in the first, as Mats Zuccarello darted in front to free a puck from Vasilevskiy’s grasp, he was bear-hugged and tossed by the much bigger Victor Hedman, and started to scrap. Both went off with minor penalties.
With the teams playing four-on-four, Lundqvist made two saves, on Kucherov’s tip and Braydon Coburn’s snap shot, and the Rangers broke down the ice. Brady Skjei found Mika Zibanejad cutting near the right circle and launched the puck in front. Chris Kreider crashed the net and banged the puck under Vasilevskiy’s armpit at 18:34. It was Kreider’s third goal in the last four games and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The pushback continued. Kampfer dropped the gloves with former Ranger Ryan Callahan in the second period (he also fought J.T. Brown early in the third). But when Vladislav Namestnikov went off at 10:01 of the second period after cross-checking Zibanejad in the head, Yanni Gourde started a give-and-go with Hedman and scored shorthanded on a two-on-one at the 11-minute mark.