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Blueshirt Bullet Points: Lightning 3 – Rangers 2

In Blueshirt Bulletin Main Blog by Scott Charles

The New York Rangers struggles at Madison Square Garden continued on Monday as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Blueshirts 3-2.

The Rangers are now 11-14-2 in their last 27 games at MSG. They are the best road team in the NHL, a big reason why they are comfortably in the playoffs but protecting home-ice advantage has been an issue.

Blueshirt Bullet Points:

1) The Rangers started strong, including a Chris Kreider breakaway in the opening minute but failed to convert on several opportunities. Despite outshooting Tampa Bay 13-3 in the opening 20 minutes, the score was tied 1-1.

2) “We played the right way in the first period. We advanced pucks, we got pucks in their end and we had good possession time and some good opportunities, which we didn’t do in the second and the third. We barely had any looks, any possession time. Just getting pucks in deep but not forechecking in the right way and not winning any board battles, so the puck’s automatically out of their end and there’s a good chance it’s coming into yours. There’s no doubt that our second and our third were not good enough tonight to get a win.”

3) Rick Nash missed an opportunity from in close, Pavel Buchnevich missed a wide-open net, and Mike Zibanejad misplayed a one-timer, all opportunities the Rangers couldn’t capitalize on. However, despite Tampa only registering 16 shots on goal, they were able to tally three goals.

4) “I didn’t hate the way we played tonight,” Stepan explained. “I didn’t love the second period, but I thought we put a strong game together. It just wasn’t strong enough. They are a team that found a way to capitalize on their chances and unfortunately we did not.”

5) Michael Grabner netted his team-leading 27th goal of the season when he knotted the game 2-2 in the second period. The threat of his speed forced Jason Garrison to overthink a simple pass and created a turnover. The way Grabner can impact the game by just being on the rink is pretty amazing. Hard to think of another player with the combination of lightning-quick speed, an extremely active stick and top-notch instincts.

6) Steven Kampfer registered his 10th career goal and first as a Ranger to open up the scoring in the first period. I still could not tell you why he is in the lineup over Adam Clendening.

7) Dare I say it but Tanner Glass has played well since being called up from the AHL. It has been a very small sample, but No. 15 has brought some grit and physical play to the Rangers lineup. When the postseason starts, I don’t expect him to be in the lineup but with a few people banged out and fast still out another week or two, expect Glass to see consistent playing time.

8) It was a strange game for Antti Raanta. The Finnish goaltender did not play poorly, but was rarely tested.

9) “Tough way to lose, Not too many shots for me,” Raanta explained after the game. “You let three goals in, you know on all those three goals you can do something a little bit different. I was feeling that we had the keys to win this game, but we just couldn’t use those.”

10) Dan Girardi is expected to skate on Tuesday after being sidelined the previous eight games with an open wound on his ankle.

11) Imagine if Kreider converted that breakaway in the opening minute? Would have been a completely different game.

12) The Rangers are scheduled to have Tuesday and Wednesday off, before getting back to work on Thursday in advance of their matchup with the Florida Panthers. With three sets of back-to-back games coming up, have to wonder if Magnus Hellberg will get a chance to start. If it was up to me, he would start Saturday’s game in Minnesota.

Note: It was pretty special to see Brayden Point score twice on the day he turned 21 and lead the Lightning to a victory. The former first-round draft pick was promoted to the top line playing alongside Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov with Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson both sidelined. There are many ways to celebrate the milestone birthday but to do it at Madison Square Garden, and help your team inch closer to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, has to be close to the top of the list.