By Brooks Roland
The buildup had reached a fever pitch.
Wednesday’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers had more hype than any November game in Lightning history. Former captain Marty St. Louis was making his return to Tampa Bay, and there was a playoff-like atmosphere at Amalie Arena. Would there be a tribute video? Would the fans boo during the video? Or would they applaud him in salute to his 13-and-a-half year tenure with the Lightning?
The answer came quickly, as the fans loudly booed the former Bolts captain every time he touched the puck throughout the course of the game. During the first TV timeout of the first period, a tribute video was shown on the Jumbotron. And although the video began with some scattered booing, it was quickly drowned out by applause from the Lightning faithful. After the game, St. Louis said in response to the boos, “The boos are expected, I understand that, they are great fans and they care.” At the end of the video, St. Louis raised his glove and tapped his chest in acknowledgement. “I was very flattered by the ovation, and I wanted to give them the proper thank you”, St. Louis told reporters. “It was great, it brought up a lot of memories, I felt I wanted to give them the thank you that they deserved.”
After the video was over, it was back to playing hockey, and the Lightning would go on to win their second straight game, a 4-3 victory over New York. Former Ranger Ryan Callahan led the way with two goals and an assist, while Steven Stamkos added a goal and two assists. Nikita Kucherov’s goal in the third period turned out to be the game-winner, while Ben Bishop stopped 16 of 19 shots. St. Louis would be held without a point.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
For the second straight meeting between the Lightning and Rangers, Callahan was dominant, as he led the team in shots on goal with five, scored his ninth and 10th goals of the season, and chipped in an assist on Stamkos’s power play goal in the first period. In the team’s first meeting of the season on November 17th, Callahan also had two goals and an assist, giving him six points against his former team.
THE TURNING POINT
Callahan’s second goal of the night at the 10:17 mark of the second period gave the Lightning a lead they would not relinquish. The play was set up by Stamkos, who skated down the right wing, went behind the net, and fed a pass in front to Callahan, who fired it past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist for a 3-2 Tampa Bay lead.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Nikita Kucherov put the Lightning up 4-2 9:38 into the third period, as Tyler Johnson’s shot deflected off Kucherov’s skate and into the net. The play would be upheld after video review. The goal, which was Kucherov’s eighth of the year, came about three minutes after St. Louis broke in alone on Ben Bishop, but was unable to get a shot off. Although Rick Nash would pull the Rangers within one goal with 7:11 left in the game, that was as close as New York would get.
The Lightning conclude their three-game home stand with an Atlantic Division showdown against the Ottawa Senators, who beat the Bolts 3-2 in a shootout at Amalie Arena on October 11th. The opening faceoff is at 7 pm.
You can follow Brooks Roland on Twitter @BrooksR987