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Lightning upsets New York Rangers behind J.T. Brown assist

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Perhaps you would like to look at the victory as a turnaround moment for a sputtering team. That remains to be seen.

You can look at it, however, as a metaphor for the way things have been going for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They were outnumbered. They were outmanned. The other team was hotter than they were. And still, the Lightning won one of its biggest games of a disappointing start Thursday night when they beat the New York Rangers 2-1.

The Lightning scored a shorthanded goal with 65 seconds left in the third period, pulling out a victory and pulling back to .500 (9-9-3) on the season. In a way, however, the Lightning was shorthanded for the entire game, playing with Tyler Johhson, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan and Cedric Paquette missing from their injury-plagued offense.

Still, the Lightning was able to play head-to-head with the Rangers, who had won nine straight games coming in. Goaltender Ben Bishop was sharp, giving up a goal only on a turnover with six minutes to play.

Unlikely heroes? How about J.T. Brown, coming out of the pack with the puck and leading a breakaway out of the penalty kill. He held onto the puck for a long time, then dished it to Valtteri Filppula, who one timed it for the win.

Brown had only two assists on the year, and only six last season. Filpulla had only one goal, only 12 a year ago. So it wasn’t quite the lethal combination you might expect.

“Who is the guy who had the most impact besides the two goaltenders?” said coach Jon Cooper. “I thought it was J.T. Brown. He was under their skin. He was in scrums. Hitting everybody. Using his speed. He was ticking off everyone on their team. I thought it was very fitting that he’s the one who set up the winner.”

Cooper said he had looked back over the Lightning’s games in November (3-5), and they have been very good except for their scoring woes.

“We’re a top five defensive team,” Cooper said. “We just have to bury the puck. We have to get more than two, because you can’t expect your goaltender to get one.”

The Lightning turned to youngsters Jonathan Marchessault, Joel Vermin, Luke Witkowski and Mike Blunden. Cooper praised each.

The Lightning plays Anaheim at home on Saturday night.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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