In one of their tightest-played games of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning made the crucial mistake and paid for it.
Late in overtime, an errant pass by defenseman Victor Hedman sailed off target, and the New York Rangers turned it into a breakaway and the winning goal by Mika Zibanejad with 1:04 left in the extra period. The Rangers went on to win, 1-0.
The single point picked up for a regulation tie allowed the Bolts to get to 69, which puts them two points out of the final wild-card slot.
“Victor had it,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. He tried to make a pass and we didn’t get it. All of a sudden now, it’s a quick strike and that’s what overtime becomes. Overtime’s not about creating chances. It’s about capitalizing on mistakes. We made a mistake and they capitalized. That was it.”
Considering how badly the Bolts needed the two points that would have come with a win, Cooper seemed in good spirits.
“I’m really pleased,” Cooper said. “In the end, they’ve got a really good hockey team. They’re good. We’ve been playing really well. It was one of those games that I thought both teams deserved a point. I thought we deserved the other one. But, I say that, and then I think back to the Carolina game and their coach probably was thinking the same thing in that game. Sometimes you get them. Sometimes you don’t. We did everything we could do to try to win that game. Tip your hat to both goaltenders. I know everybody’s screaming for more scoring in the league, but that was a pretty darn exciting 0-0 game.
“You’re talking a Monday night, and that building was rocking. I think the Witkowski-Glass fight had a lot to do with it. I think that got it going, but there was chances (on) both ends. There was big saves. The game had it all. I liked our emotion. Were we perfect? No, but we did everything in our power to win. Give them a lot of credit: They’re a 40-plus win team and rightfully so. They hung in there. We tilted the ice at times during the game and their goalie made the saves for them. When they tilted the ice on us, Vasy was making saves. Fans got their money’s worth tonight, except for the disappointment of not getting the last point. We needed that point a heck of a lot more than they did.”
The Bolts were 0-for-6 on the power play.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy ran his record to 3-0-1 since Ben Bishop was traded.
The Rangers this year have won 24 games on the road, highest in the league.
“I think we took another step tonight,” said defenseman Anton Stralman. I think we upped our game. Maybe for five minutes in the third they had some momentum going, but otherwise I thought we played strong for 60 minutes. That’s what you need this time of year. It’s not the one game that’s going to decide it. It’s the team that can play the most consistent throughout this last stretch that’s going to make it.”
Tampa Bay will play at home Thursday night against Minnesota.