It took only 40 measly games, but the Rangers FINALLY have a 10+ goal scorer in Chris Kreider. So congrats if you had Kreider leading the team in goals halfway through the season in your office pool.
Zucc (1g, 2a) was easily the best forward on the ice once again. His 3 points tonight pushes him to the team lead in assists and points with 19 and 28 respectively. The Lightning defense let him literally skate circles across the defensive zone allowing Zuccarello to find the open man for quality chances.
Lundqvist looked pretty good considering his extended time off and didn't show any signs of rust early on. None of the 3 Lightning goals were his fault, but rather to some poor defense in front of him. Hank rose to the occasion in the third period with some vintage net-minding and the Lightning controlling play for a long time before scoring on Flippula's re-direct.
Thankfully the Rangers power play came to play tonight otherwise this game wouldn't have been much of a contest with the team struggling defensively. Zucc's goal tied the game at 2 from below the goal line that deflected off of Gudas' skate and behind Lindback.
Zucc found Kreider who had just come off the bench to make it 3-2. Kreider's combo of size and speed were no match for Hedman and Gudas and CK deposited a backhander behind Lindback.
Pouliot's point streak continued to 7 games with his game winner just after Zucc's tally that took the lead for good. Pouliot found himself alone at the top of the crease and finished off a tic-tac-toe sequence with Brassard and Zuccarello. Pouliot now leads the team with 5 PPG's.
The Rangers were a defensive mess tonight and the absences of Staal and Stralman were on full display. Del Zotto in particular was caught way out of position on Tampa's first goal and failed to pick up a loose puck following a rebound on Tampa's second goal. Del Zotto and Girardi in another sequence later were both caught on the same side of the ice in the neutral zone allowing Martin St. Louis a mini-breakaway which Lundqvist stopped.
Conor Allen's first NHL game was an uneventful one. He does need to learn some of the positioning aspects in his defensive game, although he didn't make any obvious mistakes that could've led to a Lightning goal. Wouldn't mind him as a 7th defenseman but he could use a bit more seasoning in Hartford so he'll be ready in case all the Girardi and Del Zotto trade rumors come to pass.
Oh yea, Rick Nash scored a goal for the first time in nearly 3 weeks getting the Rangers on the board four and a half minutes into the first. Nash tapped in a nice feed from Stepan who stepped his game up tonight with Team USA scouts in the building.
** On a personal note, I want to wish Kevin, Adam, James and every reader of the NY Rangers Blog a safe, happy and healthy 2014.**
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