TAMPA---Just as quickly as Marian Gaborik’s goal had tied the Lighting in the last minute of regulation to steal a point here last night, the Rangers lost 2-1 in overtime.
In a game that featured outstanding goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist and rookie Cedrick Desjardins, Nate Thompson scored 19 seconds into the extra session as the Rangers (22-14-3) lost their third game this season to the Lightning, who have 51 points and are second in the Eastern Conference.
“When you tie a game that late, you have to be happy about the point,” said Lundqvist, who made 31 saves for the Rangers, who are 13-6-1 on the road. On the deciding play, Dana Tyrell, who scored the other Lightning goal at 13:03 of the first period, passed to Thompson from behind the net under a sliding Matt Gilroy to overcome Gaborik’s goal with 45.6 seconds left in regulation.
Gaborik's 11th and first of the year outside of the Garden and Nassau Coliseum came with Lundqvist pulled for an extra skater. Gaborik was left alone in front and buried Dan Girardi's pass from the corner.
“It gives you a boost of confidence,” said Gaborik, largely invisible for much of the evening. “Their goalie made some great saves. We know that this team is very talented and we did the job on our penalty-killing.” In 15 games when the Rangers are trailing at the start of the third period, they’ve managed at least a point in seven.
Before Gaborik’s goal, rookie goaltender Desjardins and a defensive blanket by the Lightning had been too much for the Blueshirts.
Until the third period, the Rangers, 8-3-1 in December, largely played as if they were still sluggish from their New Year’s Eve dinner at Malio’s Steakhouse, and Lundqvist kept this one close.The Lightning’s big guns, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier, who had 12 of the team’s 14 goals in the last five games, were kept off the board, but the Rangers couldn’t solve the surprising rookie in net for the Lightning.
Undrafted Desjardins, acquired from Montreal in exchange for Karri Ramo in August, kicked out 34 shots to win his second NHL game. The 25-year-old made 27 saves to beat Montreal in his debut on Thursday, but may not be around for long. The Lightning last night acquired Dwayne Roloson from the Islanders.
Mats Zuccarello, replacing Ryan Callahan, who has been out for seven games with a broken hand and may not begin skating until next week, had the best opportunity in the second period, firing a rebound of Artem Anisimov’s shot from the right side, but he was stopped by the pad of a diving Desjardins.
At 1:14 of the third, Anisimov was called for holding and it was the third power play for the Lightning, who are No. 2 in the league at home with the man advantage, and for the third time, they were denied.
In the last game of 2010, the Devils outshot the Rangers 16-5 in the first period. “If we start the way we did in New Jersey, we’re done,” Rangers coach John Tortorella warned before the game. But that’s what happened. The quicker Lightning pressured the Rangers in all zones and prevented them from mustering any forechecking or scoring chances.
The Rangers left immediately for south Florida, where they face the Panthers at 5 p.m. today.
There's also a story on Zuccarello's hopes for sticking in New York beyond the next few games and some notes on newsday.com. But like the Rangers, I have to run as well, driving south and through Alligator Alley to Ft. Lauderdale and need to be behind the wheel in a few minutes. See ya tomorrah.