TAMPA – Mika Zibanejad punched in the third New York Rangers shot of Friday night’s shootout to lift the Rangers to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. The goal came at the hands of Lightning backup goalie Brian Elliott, who had only been slated to start just before the game as he had been in COVID-19 protocols.
“He battled right to the end and gave us a chance to win,” said the Lightning’s Corey Perry. “He made some big saves in the last 40 seconds of the game on the power play to give us a point.”
Perry gave the Lightning a chance to win he scored off the rebound on the 6-on-5. at 18:03 when coach John Cooper had pulled Elliott. It came off of a shot from Steve Stamkos, which gave him his 23rd assist of the season. Perry took the rebound in front of New York goalie Igor Shesterkin and blasted it by him to tie the game at 3-3.
“I try to take the eyes of the goalie away and let the guys move the puck around and I create havoc in front,” said Perry. You don’t want to be in that too often but we find ways to take advantage and score a goal.”
It’s been a tough two weeks for the Tampa Bay Lightning, like many other NHL teams, as players were in and out of the lineups due to COVID-19 protocols in addition to continuing injuries to Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli, and Eric Cernak.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy remained out on Thursday night due to the health protocols as Elliott found himself in goal after clearing the protocols on Friday morning.
It was a rough evening for the 15-year veteran as two tough plays on the puck in his own end allowed a pair of New York Rangers goals as they went to the shootout to claim a 4-3 win over the Lightning in Tampa on Friday evening.
Elliott went behind the net to control a puck, but Rangers forward Julien Gauthier came from behind and clipped his blade as he tried to clear it to the right side. It went onto the blitzing blade of Alexis Lafrenière who connected on an open net to tie the game at 1-1 at 5:30 into the second period.
Then at 14:30 into the second period, Elliot once again had a problem clearing the puck as he tried to go across the ice to Victor Hedman during a shift. Greg McKegg got his stick on the pass for New York at the opposite side board and it deflected to former Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow. He changed it to his backhand and deposited it into the five-hole on Elliott for a 2-1 Rangers lead.
“We had to go where his equipment was, so we couldn’t take a chance he would be here if the results of his test weren’t where we wanted it to be,” said coach John Cooper. “Today’s day and age, everything is timing and it is hard to turn tests around and get results. In the end, if he had to take shots then, fortunately, we have a rink close by. It’s all protocol and safety and the idea if guys aren’t safe enough to be around us.”
Elliott, of course, hadn’t been able to practice since he had tested positive for covid and Maxim Lagace had to be inserted between the pipes for his only two appearances of the season with both Vasilevskiy and Elliott down. He had been on the receiving end of the 9-3 loss to the Florida Panthers 24 hours earlier, so the availability of Elliott was something that the Lightning needed rather than put the young goalie back in only a day after that.
“I thought ‘Moose’ was tremendous and we haven’t practiced for a long time with him,” said Victor Hedman. “For him to come back today and put on a performance like that is encouraging for the team. It gives us a lot of confidence.”
Ross Colton rescued the Lightning just before the end of the second period when he scored from behind the left circle at 17:31. Alex Killorn collected a puck in the neutral zone and hit Brayden Point. He fed Colton on the fly and he blew a slap shot past New York goalie Igor Shersterkin to tie the game at 2-2 going into the third period.
It was Colton’s fifth goal of the season while Killorn turned in his 21st assist and Point chalked up his eighth helper.
Goodrow once again haunted his former employer as he tapped in a shot from K’Andre Miller to give New York a 3-2 at 13:35 into the third. Goodrow was running traffic in front of Elliott and connected with the tap.
“‘Goody’ came here without a lot of fan fare and the trade was criticized by many, many people,” said Cooper. “All he did was come in here and help lead us to two Stanley Cups. Not a lot of people I have coached have the heart and gamesmanship he has.”