Rangers 4, Lightning 2
NEW YORK (AP)—For the first 58 minutes Thursday night, Tom Poti’s night was about boos and a bruise.
By the time he got back to the New York Rangers’ dressing room, the talk centered on cheers and the defenseman’s winning goal. He snapped a tie with just 1:48 left and the Rangers stopped a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Poti, who has heard boos from the home crowd all season, fired a slap shot from the slot for his first goal of the season. That rescued the Rangers, who blew a two-goal lead over the defending Stanley Cup champions earlier in the period.
“I’m out there playing hard for them every night no matter what,” said Poti, who scored New York’s third power-play goal of the game. “It’s good to get two points before Christmas.”
New York needed those heading into its three-day holiday break. The Rangers are only one point ahead of second-place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.
Poti kept them on top despite numerous hardships. He has bounced back recently after a three-game benching and he continued to play Thursday after being struck in the ankle by Fredrik Modin’s shot early in the second period that forced him out for just one shift.
“He’s sat out because of me in the past,” Rangers coach Tom Renney said. “He’s played and played a lot and will continue to because of how he has delivered since.
“I would like nothing more for Tom Poti to become so important to this team that the fans recognize that.”
Tampa Bay has lost three straight, and four of five. This time the Lightning were done in by Nolan Pratt’s late penalty for shooting the puck out of play.
“A couple of guys aren’t playing as good as they can,” said goalie John Grahame, who made 32 saves. “We haven’t had a real team effort and that’s what I think we need to get out of this.
“We never give up. It was an unfortunate call at the end and they were able to get a goal. Again it’s just something. It’s frustrating.”
Martin Rucinsky had an empty-net goal and two assists, and fellow Czech Republic Olympians Petr Prucha and Martin Straka also scored for New York, which only netted four goals in the losing streak that took place entirely at home.
Straka also had two assists, and Jaromir Jagr set up three goals.
Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves just hours after being chosen to the Swedish Olympic team.
Tampa Bay’s Ruslan Fedotenko rebounded from a hip injury to make it 2-1 just 43 seconds in and Brad Richards tied it with a power-play goal with 8:44 remaining. That stretched Tampa Bay’s power-play goal streak to a team-record 10 games.
New York entered with the NHL’s second-best, penalty-killing unit and the top one at home. The Rangers lived up to their reputation and turned aside the first six short-handed situations, but Jason Ward’s high-sticking penalty cost them.
Prucha gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 11:23 of the first period, scoring his ninth power-play goal and 16th of the season. The impressive rookie right winger knocked in fellow Czech Olympian Jagr’s pass while going down in front for his 16th and first in three games after a six-game goal streak.
Straka stretched the advantage to two with his fifth and second in 14 games. He took a pass from the edge of the right circle from Rucinsky and chipped a backhander past U.S. Olympic goalie Grahame just 17 seconds after Evgeny Artyukhin charged into Lundqvist.
The Rangers snapped out of a power-play drought in which they had only scored six goals in 70 man-advantage situations. New York hadn’t scored multiple power-play goals since beating Minnesota seven contests earlier.
Canadian Olympian Vinny Lecavalier nearly had another Tampa Bay goal in the final minute of the second period but it was waved off because seconds earlier he hit Rangers forward Dominic Moore in the face with a backhanded high stick, leading to a delayed penalty call.
New York C Michael Nylander was scratched for taking three penalties, totaling eight minutes, in the Rangers’ loss to New Jersey on Tuesday. Nylander was one of eight Rangers to play in their first 35 games. Ville Nieminen took his spot after being benched for four of six games. … Fedotenko missed the Lightning’s previous two games. … Tampa Bay its old team record with a nine-game, power-play streak from Feb. 26-March 17, 2002. … The Rangers, who had seven Olympians picked Thursday, also scored a season-high three power-play goals on Nov. 19 against Carolina.