USA TODAY Sports
The New York Rangers travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning on Wednesday night and they’ve certainly got some motivation for this one. Last Monday night the Lightning traveled to Madison Square Garden and embarrassed the Rangers. Ryan Callahan, former captain of the Rangers, scored twice in the 5-1 victory. It was just one of several games this season that the Rangers just haven’t shown up for. Since that game the Rangers have talked about holding each other accountable and being professionals who show up for work every day. New York has played twice since then and outs scored their two opponents by a combined score of 7-0. Sunday night the Rangers welcomed the Montreal Canadiens to town and they were able to take advantage of a club that was playing the second night of a back-to-back. New York was skating all night long and jumped on the board midway through the opening frame on Dominic Moore’s first goal of the season. In the second period it was Derek Stepan wristing a laser top shelf off a feed from Martin St. Louis just 35 seconds in, and St. Louis would add his own off a beautiful backhand. Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash added third period goals in the 5-0 white wash. It’s amazing how Jekyll and Hyde this club can be on a game to game basis but when they show up like they did in this one they can play with anyone in the league. The lack of effort some nights and inconsistent play is a little disconcerting, but with Ryan McDonagh’s return on the horizon there should be more good things to come for New York. With the way they allowed their former teammates to walk into Madison Square Garden last week and make a mockery out of them it would be hard to imagine the Rangers not getting up for this one as St. Louis returns to Tampa Bay for the first time. Once the face of the franchise, St. Louis had his tenure end in a very messy fashion last year when he demanded a trade and only wanted to go to New York. The fans will certainly love St. Louis again in time but the response will be mixed for the veteran winger in this one. It would certainly mean a lot to him if he could get a victory in his first game back.
For the Lightning it’s just about getting back to that consistent play they had early on in the season. They’ve lost two of three since their victory against the Rangers and allowed 10 goals in the two losses. Saturday night it was clear that the coaching staff was emphasizing the need to focus on the defensive side of the puck and the Lightning did a much better job of that against the Minnesota Wild. Zach Parise got the Wild on the board first early in the second period but Steven Stamkos would score on the power play and Alex Killorn added his sixth goal late in the frame that proved to be the game winner. Ben Bishop stopped 30 shots on the night to pick up his 12th win of the season. The Lightning are going to have to try and separate themselves from all of the drama that will be surrounding St. Louis coming back to Tampa Bay. They did a good job of that when they brought three former Rangers back to the Garden last week, but this one is going to be a little different for everybody involved. The Lightning can’t expect to see the same Rangers team they faced previously. New York didn’t skate in that game, were beaten to every puck, and lost every board battle. Callahan scored twice from right in front of the net with absolutely no one trying to get him out of the way. The energy level should be ratcheted up a notch for both parties involved.
This one should be a lot of fun and a much better match up than we saw last time. Tampa Bay is a significant favorite in this one and rightly so, but expect the Rangers to be a little more motivated for this one after the way the Lightning took it to them the other day.