In the end, it was a familiar face who did in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
No, not that one.
With all the attention on Marty St. Louis, it was Dominic Moore, a New York Rangers forward who played the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons with the Bolts, who knocked in the winning goal when the puck bounded off his shin pad with only 2:25 to play in the third period of Saturday’s opener of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals.
Moore, who scored 22 goals in his time with the Bolts, was a member of the Lightning’s last trip to the Eastern Conference finals. If he were still a Bolt, it would be easy to find his story heart-warming. He sat out the 2012-13 season after learning that his wife, Katie, had liver cancer, a disease that eventually claimed her.
As it was, Moore’s goal gave the Rangers the first blow in their Stanley Cup playoff series. Rookie Kevin Hayes fought off a check from former Ranger Ryan Callahan to make a nice feed in the late stages to provide the winning goal.
During the regular season, the Lightning had won all three games with the Rangers, outscoring them 15-7. But most of those were early in the season, before the Rangers jelled. If nothing else, Saturday’s result hinted that this series would not be an easy one for Tampa Bay.
The Lightning fell behind with only 12.7 seconds left in the second period when Derek Stefan scored.
Tampa Bay tied things with 13:15 left to play when Andre Palat, after a nice pass from Tyler Johnson, found the net.
It was the first victory for New York over Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop, who had been 8-0 against New York coming in.
“They’re all tough to lose whether it’s late, early, by a lot, by a little,” Bishop said. “Obviously you hate to see one like that go in, but that’s the way it is at this type of game, throwing pucks at the the net, sometimes you get lucky. That’s a good play by them, throw pucks at net, you never know what could happen.”
“Give them credit, they threw one at the net, their guy’s buzzing around down there and they got the break,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I think in a game like that, that’s how it was going to end up. It was who was going to get the last bounce at the end, and unfortunately for us, they got it.”
Moore isn’t known as a big scorer. He had only 10 goals this year, and he’s had only 16 since leaving the Lightning. But he has been in a conference final for four of the last five years, and he’s shown he’s capable of a big goal.
“We’ve watched him over the last few years, in big moments, make big plays,” said Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. “It’s in his DNA.
“This time of the year, the way he plays, (Moore) becomes even more important,” said Rangers forward Martin St. Louis. “He’s a guy who can really grind it out and be tough to play against. He plays a greasy kind of game.”
Sometimes, grease is the word.
“For me, this is the fourth time in the last five years in the conference final. I don’t take lightly being in these games,” said Moore.
The series continues Monday night in New York. The series comes to Tampa for game three on Wednesday night.