Slumping Brad Richards, who admitted he was feeling “a little lost offensively” scored at 2:37 of overtime tonight to lift the Rangers to a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Richards, falling to the left of Mathieu Garon, reached out just enough to score after great passes from Michael Del Zotto and Artem Anisimov to cap a rally that began in the third when Brian Boyle one-timed a puck that deflected off Victor Hedman into the left circle with 9:47 left to tie the game at 3.
The Rangers, 34-13-5, who extended their lead in the East to five points over the Bruins, won their seventh straight game after a loss. Their last back-to-back losses were in mid-December, 22 games ago.
Martin Biron won his 10th game in goal. He had not played the past three games since losing in overtime to New Jersey on Jan. 31, but sported a 1.95 goals against average and a .924 save percentage.
“I look as him as part of our tandem,” coach John Tortorella, who refused to call Biron a backup before the game at Madison Square Garden. “He deserves the respect as a guy who’s one of our goaltenders. A guy we want to come in to play and win.”
The Rangers, who allowed just 17 shots, are 2-0-1 against the Lightning this season and a league-leading 3-9-1 when trailing after two periods.
In the third, former Ranger Dominic Moore nailed Ruslan Fedotenko in the jaw with his right shoulder, and Moore was assessed a minor for roughing, not a major for a hit to the head."I'm not going to talk about it," Toortorella said. Fedotenko was helped to the locker room and the Rangers declined to comment on his condition afterward.
The Rangers then had their second power play of the game. Richards’ point shot hit Garon in the mask, and after the power play came close, but didn’t connect, Boyle hit the near post off a pass from Prust.
With Tampa ahead 1-0, the teams exchanged three goals in 1:15 of the second period. With Brandon Prust and Victor Hedman off for roughing, Ryan Callahan deflected Del Zotto’s shot past Garon for a rare power play goal at 4:33. It was only the Rangers third goal in the last 48 opportunities.
Derek Stepan spun in front to score at 5:27 for a 2-1 lead, but Vinny Lecavalier banked a second try from a sharp angle to the left of Biron off the face of Callahan, who was in sitting halfway into the net just 21 seconds later. Then with Steve Eminger, playing for the first time since sustaining a separated shoulder on Dec. 17, was tossed for tripping at 11:40 and former Islanders defenseman Bruno Gervais, alone in front converted a feed from Steven Stamkos to restore the Lightning lead at 3-2 at 12:26.
Not much was happening in a scoreless first period as time wound down. Then the league's leading goalscorer struck. Del Zotto' s pass hit Richards' skate and the play turned quickly. Stamkos had the puck barreling down the right side with Anton Stralman in pursuit. Stralman hooked him and the ref raised his arm for a delayed penalty, but Stamkos, diving, managed to get a backhander past Biron with 1:04 left. It was his 36th of the season, with Brett Connolly and JT Wyman awarded the assists. Thirty of his goals have come at even strength.