Lightning win 10th straight, top Rangers 4-3 in OT
NEW YORK (AP) — Given a second chance in overtime, Victor Hedman didn’t miss. And he helped run the Tampa Bay Lightning’s winning streak to a perfect 10.
Hedman scored at 3:25 of the extra period and the Lightning extended their franchise-record stretch with a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
Tyler Johnson, J.T. Miller and Dan Girardi also scored for Tampa Bay, which has an NHL-leading 102 points. Nikita Kucherov added three assists to give him a league-leading 74. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 33 saves.
Kucherov sent a drop-back pass to Hedman, who skated toward the net and wristed a shot for his eighth of the season. Hedman had a breakaway earlier in overtime that was stopped.
“You have to give them credit, they found a way again,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of his team. “Kind of what they’ve been doing all year.”
Tampa Bay has not lost since a 1-0 OT defeat against St. Louis on Feb. 7.
“It means it’s hard for teams to catch us,” Cooper said. “More importantly, it’s how you win the games.”
The Lightning will try to keep it going when they head to Boston to face the second-place Bruins on Thursday night. The Bruins are also on a roll as they have at least one point in 14 consecutive games.
“Now we’ve got to go to Boston and they’re waiting for us, back to back for us, so this should be a good test for us,” Cooper said.
Jimmy Vesey had a goal and assist for the Rangers. Mika Zibanejad and Boo Nieves also scored. Alexandar Georgiev had 26 saves.
The Rangers got off to a slow start in their first game since the trade deadline on Monday when they sent forward Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg and defenseman Adam McQuaid to Columbus.
“I felt for the first time we were a bit nervous about how we were going to look without the guys we traded, especially against that team.” Rangers coach David Quinn said.
“I thought once we got that goal to start the second, our whole mentality changed, felt like on the bench a bubble burst. I thought we got back to doing what we’ve been doing.”
Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Rangers started their rally in the opening minute of the second when Vesey slid a pass across to Zibanejad, who scored on the backhand and tied a career high with his 27th goal of the season.
The Lightning answered when Steven Stamkos skated down the right faceoff circle and sent to a cross-ice pass to Girardi, who scored at 2:53. It was the fourth goal of the season for Girardi, who spent the first 11 seasons of his career with New York before joining Tampa Bay in 2017-18.
“Stammer (Stamkos) made an unbelievable saucer pass on my tape,” Girardi said. “Kind of didn’t see it coming. It rolled a little bit and I just shot it, got the net and it went in.”
Just 30 seconds later, Vesey skated toward the net and fought off Hedman and scored his 16th of the season.
The Rangers tied the game when Nieves took a pass from Ryan Strome behind the net and scored his fourth of the season at 14:14. Vasilevskiy got a piece of Nieves’ shot, but it trickled over the goal line to make it 3-3.
Tampa Bay dominated the first period. Johnson opened the scoring when he snapped a shot that beat Georgiev stick-side for his 22nd of the season at 7:52.
Later in the period, Kucherov took a shot from the right faceoff circle that deflected off the stick of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal to Miller in front of the goal. Miller sent a backhand into the net for his 12th of the season at 14:57 on the power play.
Vasilevskiy kept the Rangers scoreless through 20 minutes when he stopped Chris Kreider on a breakaway with three minutes to go in the period.
“We gave them too much respect — too much time and room,” Zibanejad said. “It’s too bad we give up those two in the first.”
NOTES: Kucherov’s 104 points surpassed Martin St. Louis for the second-most in a season in team history. The record is 108 points held by Vincent Lecavalier. ... Johnson reached 300 career points with his first-period goal. ... Zibanejad is the first Rangers player with consecutive seasons of at least 27 goals since Jaromir Jagr did it in 2005-06 and 2006-07. ... Brendan Lemieux made his debut for the Rangers. He was acquired from Winnipeg in the trade that sent Kevin Hayes to the Jets on Monday. ... Filip Chytil was scratched by New York.
Lightning: Face the Bruins in Boston on Thursday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Atlantic Division.
Rangers: Host the Canadiens on Friday night in the second game of a three-game homestand.