The Tampa Bay Lightning struck early and often Thursday night, tallying four goals in the first seven minutes and delivering a dominant power play performance (62.5% effectiveness) en route to a decisive 9-3 win over the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena.
Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov assisted the first two goals, scored the third, and later set the table for Steven Stamkos, who scored on a power play at 7:07 in the second period to give Tampa Bay a 5-1 advantage.
“Anytime you get an opportunity like that, especially at the beginning of the game, you want to take advantage,” Stamkos said. “Sometimes you get a 5-on-3 and don’t score, it puts a damper on things.”
The 5-on-3 and then the subsequent 5-on-4 was what opened the flood gates after Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn scored from just inside the blue line off the right side against Rangers backup goalie Georgiev Alexander just 2:39 into the game.
Then, Brandon Lemieux and Anthony DeAngelo took simultaneous penalties at 5:36 for cross-checking and slashing, respectively.
Center Alex Killorn scored on the redirect off a Kucherov shot at 5:41 before Kucherov ripped a wrist shot at 6:21 as Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead.
“We did a good job taking advantage of our power plays and wanted to keep things going,” said Stamkos. “We kind of hit the reset button when we landed in Sweden and came together. It’s early in the season, but something like that can really spark you.”
Tampa Bay outshot the Rangers 16-4 in the first period and then the defense did not allow a shot in the first 10 minutes of the second period. The connectivity between the offense, the defense and the special teams was a welcomed sight as the Lightning have struggled to put the three together on a consistent basis this season.
“It helped the puck was going in the net when you score often early it kind of helps your psyche,” said Lightning coach John Cooper. “Neither team thought it would be 4-zip that early in the game.”
Pat Maroon and Yanni Gourde continued their hot streaks as Maroon scored his third goal in the last two games at 10:19 of the second period when he took advantage of a Rangers turnover in their own end for the score.
Gourde extended his goal streak to four games as he had the lone third period goal and the ninth for the Lightning on the evening.
“I thought we were really getting pucks at the net for most of the game,” Cooper noted. “We got loose as the score got a little larger. These are unique games because in this league no one is 9-3 better than the other.”
The Lightning outshot the Rangers 45-23 on the evening as the power play continued to move forward with the five goals.
The penalty kill was perfect for the fourth game in a row as it killed five odd-man advantages for the Rangers.
New York was penalized 13 times which equated to 55 minutes. Center Micheal Haley had two 10-minute misconducts and a pair of two-minute slashing and roughing penalties.
Filip Chytil was the lone bright spot for the Rangers as he scored two goals. Both came in the third period, shorthanded at 2:22 and on a stick back off a missed shot at 15:28.
The Lightning’s schedule sets up well for them now as they have 16 of their next 22 games at home and should improve on their current 11th place standing (9-5-2, 20 points) in the Eastern Conference.