Steven Stamkos scored his 28th goal of the season in the second period to match his total from last season, and it turned out to be the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning held on for a 3-2 victory over the host New York Rangers on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay jumped on top 3-0 at 8:33 of the second period on Stamkos’ fourth goal of the season against the Rangers. Stamkos received a cross-ice pass from defenseman Victor Hedman and lifted a wrist shot from the middle of the right faceoff circle off Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s left shoulder.
The Lightning’s Yanni Gourde scored in the first period and rookie Erik Cernak scored his first career goal before Stamkos netted his 376th career goal.
Nikita Kucherov recorded the secondary assist on Stamkos’ goal and increased his league-leading points total to 80. Kucherov also became the quickest player in Tampa Bay history to reach 80 points, getting there in 52 games. He surpassed the mark set by Vincent Lecavalier (60 games) in 2006-07.
Backup goaltender Louis Dominigue made 31 saves and recorded his ninth straight win as Tampa Bay completed a back-to-back sweep in the New York area after beating the New York Islanders on Friday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Dominique kept the lead in the final moments after the Rangers pulled Lundqvist, making a glove save on a Chris Kreider shot with about a minute left and a pad stop on a long drive by Kevin Shattenkirk with one second left.
Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes scored for the Rangers, who lost their fourth straight to Tampa Bay.
The Lightning went ahead at 6:51 of the first period due to some good fortune. Lundqvist stopped the initial shot by Ryan McDonagh but could not find the puck. Gourde eased past Shattenkirk in the low slow and tapped in the loose puck into the vacated net.
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead when Ryan Callahan made a slick cross-ice pass from the left wing and Cernak lifted a wrist shot from the low slot over Lundqvist, who was late to react.
After Stamkos scored, Zuccarello ended Domingue’s shutout bid at 16:17 of the second when he put a wrist shot from near the right faceoff dot off the goaltender’s right pad and into the back of the net.
Hayes made it a one-goal game at 6:49 of the third when he one-timed Mika Zibanejad’s backhand pass from the left wing off Dominigue’s right arm.