TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — By the time Tampa Bay allowed even one shot on goal, New York was down two goals and staring down yet another defeat.
The league-leading Lightning can blitz any NHL team, and they had little trouble with the last-place Rangers on Thursday night.
Anthony Cirelli had a goal and two assists and Tampa Bay chased Henrik Lundqvist with a barrage of shots in a 5-3 win.
The Lightning had 17 shots on goal before the Rangers got their first nearly 11 minutes into the game. Lundqvist kept New York’s deficit to 2-0 through one period but was pulled after allowing two more goals in the second period.
Cirelli, playing his fourth career game, helped the Lightning improve to 8-0-1 in their past nine games. Adam Erne, Cedric Paquette. Tyler Johnson and Chris Kunitz also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves for his league-leading 40th victory, which ties the franchise record.
“We keep growing as a team,” Kunitz said. “We’ve got new guys in the lineup and everybody’s been contributing and that’s a sign of a good team. We just have to keep growing these last fifteen games and keep getting better.”
Ryan Spooner had a goal and an assist for New York, which has dropped consecutive games since sweeping a three-game trip to Western Canada. New York is nine games outside of the final playoff spot with 14 games left.
“We’re trying to worry about our game and what we can do every game,” New York center Mika Zibanejad said. “It’s been a tough stretch, a tough season. … We’re trying to go out there with the mindset to win games and battle.”
Lundqvist made 27 saves before being replaced by Alexander Georgiev, who made 13 saves.
“That’s the hardest a team has come at us all year long,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. “They came at us with speed and skill. We had a real hard time following the pace. There’s no doubt they dominated us.”
Paquette and Erne scored during Tampa Bay’s dominant first period, and Cirelli made it 3-0 just 1:53 into the second. After Spooner cut it to 3-1, Kunitz chased Lundqvist and Johnson got to Georgiev to make it 5-1 by the end of the period.
NOTES: Lundqvist appeared in his 799th career game. … New York D Kevin Shattenkirk missed his 22nd consecutive game with a knee injury but has resumed skating and is traveling with the team. … Tampa Bay’s 21 shots on goal in the first period were a season-high for a period. … New York RW Chris Kreider did not return after the first period for “precautionary” reasons, according to the team. … Zibanejad returned to the lineup after missing the previous game with the flu. … New York D Rob O’Gara recorded his first career NHL point.
Lightning: Host Montreal on Saturday.
Rangers: At Florida on Saturday.
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