New York Rangers face Lightning with Capitals nipping at their heels

The New York Rangers will look to continue their winning ways against the defending Stanley Cup Champions Saturday night in Tampa.

New York is 2-0-0 against the Lightning this season, winning a home-and-home set against the champs over a three-day period around New Year’s Day. They’re going to need to find a way to pick up points this weekend, as they will also have the difficult task of facing the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

Gerard Gallant’s charges are at risk of falling to the wild card with the Washington Capitals nipping at their heels. The Caps have won four straight and are now just one point behind the Blueshirts for third place in the Metro Division.

Frank Vatrano ready to help his new team

In his Thursday debut — a 2-1 loss against the Islanders — new Ranger Frank Vatrano posted one shot on goal while logging 14:47 of ice time.

New York acquired him from the Florida Panthers for a 2022 fourth-round pick on Wednesday, just a few days ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

new york rangers
Mar 17, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Frank Vatrano (77) takes the ice for the first time as a Ranger following his trade from the Florida Panthers before a game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

“Florida was home for me, but to be traded to a franchise like the Rangers is an absolute thrill,” the East Longmeadow, Mass., native said. “It was great, especially playing a rivalry game (in the) first game. I thought it was a good effort all around.”

Skating at right wing with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome on Thursday night, Vatrano provided a spark and drew an interference penalty on Scott Mayfield. Chris Kreider soon scored on the man advantage — his 40th goal — to level it 1-1 in the second period.

“It’s a great opportunity playing with two world-class players like that. I just tried to bring my speed and get to the dirty areas and create space for them,” said Vatrano, who was undrafted after his career at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Notching 10 goals and nine assists over 49 contests for Florida, the speedy Vatrano left the Panthers on a high note Tuesday in San Jose.

In Florida’s 3-2 overtime win, he had the final two tallies on nasty one-timers from the slot — the tying goal early in the third, then the game-winner 1:11 into three-on-three overtime.

However, the lefty-shooting winger had found himself in Florida’s doghouse.

In the previous 27 games before his heroics against the Sharks, he went goalless in 18 straight and did not play in nine.

Rangers and the NHL Trade Deadline

The NHL Trade Deadline is two days away and Chris Drury is still looking for some reinforcements.

Elliotte Friedman noted in his latest podcast that the Rangers are still shopping the rental market. He mentioned that they still would like a left defenseman and made a pitch for Alexander Radulov from the Dallas Stars.

From everything I can gather, they really would like to land Rickard Rakell at a good price. Another forward fallback option is Phil Kessel with the Arizona Coyotes.

Mark Giordano wants to play in Toronto, but if the Rangers give a better offer he likely won’t stand in the way of Seattle improving themselves. Should that fail to happen there is always Calvin de Haan in Chicago and Colin Miller in Buffalo.

Lightning playing .500 hockey lately

After a somewhat disappointing six-game trip out West, the Tampa Bay Lightning return home for a brief, one-game layover Saturday night against the New York Rangers.

The Lightning felt like they would get more out of the lengthy road swing, which started in Chicago and ended Wednesday night in Seattle. The club posted a 3-3-0 mark on their trek across Canada and the U.S.

The trip opened with a win and ended with two, but regulation defeats in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton left a sour taste for the second-place Lightning, who enter tonight’s game trailing the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers by six points.

Steven Stamkos celebrated his 900th career game — all with Tampa Bay — by recording three assists as the Lightning broke a 1-1 tie and beat the expansion Kraken 4-1 to round out the trip.

NHL Rumors

Hampus Lindholm is likely on the move after contract talks break down. Plus is Claude Giroux heading to Florida? Read more here.

–Field Level Media contributed to this report