New York, NY (Sports Network) – Ryan Malone scored in the 11th round of the shootout, and the Tampa Bay Lightning continued their best start in franchise history with a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who have won five of six. Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier also scored in regulation for Tampa Bay, which got 34 saves from Dan Ellis.
Ruslan Fedotenko, Alex Frolov and Derek Stepan lit the lamp for the Rangers, who have lost two in a row since a three-game winning streak. Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 21-of-24 shots.
“We have to be happy with how we grinded and how we played,” Stepan said. “Other than a couple of breakdowns that ended up in the back of the net we played exactly the way we wanted to.”
Erik Christensen and Victor Hedman scored in the first round of the shootout. Ellis then made a save on Stepan’s wrister before Adam Hall beat Lundqvist to give Tampa Bay the edge.
The Rangers’ hopes came down to Mats Zuccarello, who was making his NHL debut. The 23-year-old used a nice deke to get Ellis out of position before putting the puck into the back of the net to keep New York alive. Lundqvist stopped Stamkos to extend the shootout.
The goaltenders were dominant over the next several rounds. Marc Staal, the first shooter in the 11th round, lost control of the puck and Ellis poked the disc away. Malone then skated in and fired a wrister just under the crossbar to give the Lightning the victory.
“With the crazy schedule we had, 15 of 21 games on the road, we wanted to survive above .500. We did more than that,” Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher said. “Our short-term goal was to be first in our division by Christmas. It just shows how much character the guys have.”
Tampa Bay drew first blood just two minutes into the game when St. Louis stole the puck at center ice and fired a snap shot just inside the post.
Fedotenko made it a 1-1 game at the 11:16 mark. After the Lightning turned the puck over in their own zone, Fedotenko snuck a soft shot past Ellis as he broke his stick on a slapper from the left circle.
Frolov lit the lamp just 12 seconds later to give New York a 2-1 edge. Artem Anisimov’s shot from the slot left a rebound in front. Frolov was in the right place and his shot hit off the skate of a Tampa Bay player before crossing the goal line.
Tampa Bay made it a 2-2 contest with 1:06 to play in the first period. St. Louis stole the puck in the New York zone and backhanded a pass in the slot to Stamkos, whose wrister beat Lundqvist.
Lecavalier’s tip-in at the 14:42 mark of the second gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead. Pavel Kubina carried the puck to the bottom of the circle before dishing it in front from where Lecavalier chipped the disc into the back of the net.
The Rangers managed just one goal in the third stanza despite firing 17 shots on net. Brandon Dubinsky gathered the puck along the right boards and slid a cross-ice pass to the left side of the cage. Stepan started to make his way behind the net before stopping and jamming the disc past Ellis.
The Lightning posted a 5-3 win over the Rangers when the clubs met in Tampa Bay on November 24. New York has still taken seven of the last 10 meetings.New York was without forward Marian Gaborik (groin) and defenseman Michael Del Zotto (illness)…Tampa Bay improved to 6-1-2 against Atlantic Division teams this season…The Lightning assigned forward Johan Harju to Norfolk (AHL). Zuccarello was assigned to Connecticut (AHL) following the game…The shootout lasted 11 rounds, which is tied for the sixth longest in NHL history.