On paper, it may have just been the 23rd game of the season against an intra-conference opponent. But Saturday night's game between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning meant a little bit more to several Blueshirts, so the 4-2 win -- spurred by a three-goal third period -- will feel even better as the Rangers head back to New York.
John Tortorella coached the Tampa Bay Lightning for seven years, leading them to a Stanley Cup in 2004. Brad Richards was there pretty much the same amount of time. And Ruslan Fedotenko was around for four of those seasons as well. There's something special about getting the best of your former employer and all three individuals had great performances in the win.
New York was 20 minutes from seeing its four-game winning streak end as it was down 2-1. The Rangers played fairly well throughout but a couple of fluke goals beat Henrik Lundqvist and New York couldn't cash in on enough of their chances ... until the third period.
Perhaps the most encouraging trait of this Rangers' team is their will and never-say-die mentality. This squad has the ability to stick with the gameplan and remain patient even when the score might not be on their side.
Artem Anisimov knotted the game at 6:16 of the third period through sensational back-check work from Ryan Callahan to force the turnover and pass from Derek Stepan. The Rangers kept on coming in the third period -- they had 14 shots -- and Stepan was the next one to capitalize on his chance with an open net off a rebound for his fifth goal of the season. Brad Richards added the insurance goal on an empty-netter. Fedotenko had the team's first goal in the second.
Lundqvist may not have been his sharpest in net, but good teams overcome subpar days from their star players.
The Rangers have won 12 of their last 14 games and are fourth in the Eastern Conference with the fewest games played -- despite being three points behind the NHL-leading Pittsburgh Penguins. They are off to their best start through 23 games since their 1993-94 Cup-winning season, according to NHL.com's Brian Compton.