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No overtime needed, Lightning continue offensive assault versus Rangers

Wayne Masut | Sr. Staff Photographer

The Tampa Bay Lightning have relied on overtime to decide each of their last six games. On Thursday night, sixty minutes was enough. 

Before taking the ice against the New York Rangers, all-star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times that he is tired, and it’s having an impact on him as the Lightning head toward the playoffs.

“So that’s why sometimes I’m probably not as sharp, like probably the first half of the season. That’s why I have to adjust and be on the top of my game,” Vasilevskiy said. He went on to say “it’s hard for someone to tell you what to expect. You deal with it. You battle. Playing a lot of games, yeah, it’s a grind. It’s a battle. You just have to mentally be prepared for that.”

It would appear that his teammates got the message and decided to give him a break.

Thanks to a relentless offensive attack, and solid work in front of their own net, Vasilevskiy enjoyed a first period that saw his mates outshoot the visitors 21-5. The Lightning scored two goals before the Rangers posted their first shot on net.

Cedric Paquette started the scoring after Henrik Lundqvist couldn’t corral the puck following a Chris Kunitz shot attempt. It’s his third goal of the season. Minutes later, Adam Erne got in on the action when — as he was falling to the ice — he went five-hole to beat the Rangers goalie.

Head Coach Jon Cooper was pleased with the way his team performed in the first period. “I really liked our first period,” he said. “I think we set the tone for the game in that period.”

Relentless attack

Despite hanging with the Lightning in terms of shots on goal, the Rangers couldn’t cut into the deficit. The second period brought even more offensive pressure from Tampa Bay. Rookie Anthony Cirelli, on a redirect from Mikhail Sergachev, picked up his second goal of the season, Chris Kunitz added his 14th, and Tyler Johnson found the net for the 19th time this season. Johnson continues to find ways to score from improbable situations and angles.

The Rangers had no answer for the Lightning on this night and during the second period, after pulling Lundqvist in favor of Alexander Georgiev, New York found themselves without another key player. Chris Kreider was removed from the game and did not return.

With his second period goal, plus his two assists, Cirelli was key for the Lightning on Thursday. He’s been able to develop chemistry with his line-mates very quickly. Tonight the offense benefitted from the rapport that the young rookie has been able to build with his line-mates.

“Just being able to go out there and share the ice with them is unbelievable,” Cirelli said of Kunitz and Callahan. “They make the game so much easier for me.”

The trio combined for six points against the Rangers. Through his first four games in the NHL, Cirelli has five points — two goals and three assists.

Miller faces former team

As the trade deadline approached, most of the Lightning trade speculation was centered around Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. However, on February 26, Tampa Bay traded for a different defenseman. Included in the trade was 24-year-old J.T. Miller. Thursday night marked the first meeting between Miller and his former team. In his 11:44 of ice time on Thursday, Miller didn’t pick up any points (1 SOG) against his former pals.

As for the defenseman that joined the Bolts? Ryan McDonagh (upper body) has yet to make an appearance for the Lightning. Prior to the trade, McDonagh had missed nine consecutive games for the Rangers.

Up Next:

The Lightning host the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Saturday afternoon at 1pm.

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