A couple of fresh faces, and a much better performance. This is the kind of game that makes the Rangers hopeful about the future.
With recent call-ups Filip Chytil and Ryan Lindgren both making their season debuts, the Rangers took a dramatic 4-1 win over the Lightning on Tuesday night at the Garden.
The Rangers (4-5-1) had been struggling to gain any traction early in this season, having lost an ugly 7-4 game to the Bruins on Sunday night, their sixth loss in the past seven games.
So in went the talented Chytil, a 20-year-old center who played 75 games for the Blueshirts last season and who filled in for Mika Zibanejad, as the top-line pivot missed his first full game with an upper-body injury suffered Sunday. Lindgren, the 21-year-old blueliner, also went in and brought some much-needed physical edge to the lineup, making veteran Marc Staal a healthy scratch for the first time in his 13-year career.
It was a familiar opponent, too, with the perpetually good Lightning (5-4-2) now with ex-Ranger Kevin Shattenkirk on its blue line, making his first return to the Garden since the Rangers bought out his contract this summer.
The game was high-paced and tight from the beginning, with a 1-1 tie going into the third period. Tampa Bay had lost star defenseman Victor Hedman in the second period to an undisclosed injury, as well as forward Pat Maroon after his first-period fight with Micheal Haley.
But it was Chytil who made the defining play, a great tip out of midair on a centering feed from Pavel Buchnevich, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead at 12:46 of the third period.
Then it was more good things from the Rangers’ youth, as defenseman Adam Fox — who had a whale of a game — batted in a rebound to make it 3-1 with 2:36 remaining in regulation.
Ryan Strome ended things with an empty-netter with 45.2 seconds remaining, making it 4-1.
The night started with a ceremonial puck dropped by Dan Girardi, the veteran defenseman who played 11 seasons for the Rangers and the final two of his career with the Lightning before retiring this summer. But the niceties stopped there.
After some fast and physical play, the Lightning were finally able to beat goalie Alexandar Georgiev at 15:44 of the first when the Rangers were caught in a bad line change and Brayden Point found Nikita Kucherov for a tap-in goal.
But the Rangers came back when 18-year-old rookie Kaapo Kakko was able to net the second goal of his career, his shot from the left circle getting stopped by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy before the rebound hit the skate of Tampa defenseman Braydon Coburn and in for a power-play goal at 9:37, tying it at 1-1.
A couple of good saves from the respective goaltenders — along with Chris Kreider clanking one off the post late in the second period — brought the game to the third period knotted at one apiece.
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