Rangers look to bounce back against Lightning to close out 2023

NHL: New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers found themselves in a hole against the Florida Panthers on Friday and seemed to be chasing the game the rest of the way. Despite battling all the way to the bitter end, the Blueshirts could not catch a break in their favor to eventually fall by a 4-3 score.

A sequence late in the third period summed up the entire game for the Blueshirts. Down 3-2, Alexis Lafreniere went to play a bouncing puck. Florida’s Aleksander Barkov was also trying to, and with both players looking down to control it, Lafreniere’s shoulder inadvertently caught Barkov’s head. The refs on the ice called it a major in order to review it. Even though video review completely showed it was incidental contact, the refs awarded the Panthers a power play.

On the ensuing penalty kill, Mika Zibanejad would tie the game at 3 with a shorthanded goal. Things were looking up for the Rangers, who managed to kill the remaining time on man-advantage only to see a shot from the point shatter Barclay Goodrow’s stick. The puck immediately came to Carter Verhaeghe, and with Goodrow defending without a stick, a quick turnaround shot beat Jonathan Quick for the ultimate game-winner.

“You got [Lafreniere] playing the puck and he takes his head down into the play.,” said an upset Peter Laviolette. “No intention to hit him in the head. There should’ve been zero minutes (after review), not two minutes.”

The Rangers were not pleased with the result, but are glad to get right back at it versus the Tampa Bay Lightning to close out 2023 on a high note.

Here’s tonight’s game and broadcast info:

New York Rangers (24-9-1) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (17-14-5)
Date/Time: December 30, 2023 @ 7:00 PM ET
Arena: Amalie Arena
TV: MSG2
Radio: ESPN 1050 AM

Note: Subject to change, updated for each game

New York Rangers projected lineup

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Blueshirts lineup is expected to remain the same with the only change in net being Igor Shesterkin to start.

Kreider- Zibanejad – Wheeler
Panarin – Trocheck – Lafreniere
Cuylle – Bonino – Brodzinski
Vesey – Goodrow – Pitlick

Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Gustafsson – Schneider

Shesterkin
Quick

New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning

The Rangers will look to remain perfect in the second game of back-to-back sets as they’ve gone 5-0-0 this season to date.

“It doesn’t feel any good to lose,” captain Jacob Trouba said. “We played a pretty solid game. Some bounces and breaks didn’t go our way… A broken stick in front cost us. We’re right back at it tomorrow. We’ll keep bringing our game.”

Speaking of players bringing it for the Rangers, Mika Zibanejad is on a tear with points in 17 out of his last 18 games (12 goals, 14 assists). Artemi Panarin continues his amazing season registering his 20th goal on the 2023-24 campaign in Florida. Meanwhile, Chris Kreider has extended his point streak to 5 games (1 goal, 7 assists), and Alexis Lafreniere has collected a point in 4 of his last 5 matches (2 goals, 2 assists).

Igor Shesterkin is entering tonight riding a 4 game winning streak buoyed by a GAA of 1.75, and a stellar .938 save percentage. The 27 year-old’s record is now at 14-7-0, and he’s getting other key stats more inline with his career numbers. Thanks to this rebound, Igor’s GAA is down to 2.77, and his save percentage is up to .908 on the year.

Looking at the opposition bench, the Rangers will need to keep an eye on Nikita Kucherov as he leads the NHL in scoring with 58 points (24 goals, 34 assists). Also not to be ignored are Brayden Point (38 points) and Steven Stamkos (35 points).

Andrei Vasilevskiy should get the start in goal for Tampa, and is coming off a loss to the Panthers on December 27th. He had won 3 in a row before that, and has a record of 8-6-0 on the season, with a GAA of 2.78 and a .907 save percentage.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore