RANGERS 4, LIGHTNING 3: Rangers score twice within 18 seconds in third period for a 4-3 win that keeps Tampa Bay in second place.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 2, 2002
NEW YORK -- Defenseman Dan Boyle sat in the Lightning locker room at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, throwing equipment into a bag and punctuating each toss with an expletive.
Tampa Bay's 4-3 loss to the Rangers, Boyle agreed, was a game that would bother him more as he thought about it.
"Very disappointing," he said. "Two shifts cost us the game."
Those shifts, and the mistakes that went with them, allowed New York to score twice late in the third period and steal the kind of game Tampa Bay has to learn to finish.
Pavel Bure tied it at 3 with his second goal with 2:38 remaining. Ronald Petrovicky got the winner 18 seconds later off a rebound.
The Lightning wasted a comeback in which goals in 1:26 by Martin St. Louis, on the power play, and Andre Roy gave it a 3-2 lead with 5:17 left.
It was a cruel way for Tampa Bay to lose its second straight game, fourth in its past sixth, and leave critical points unclaimed. Not the best strategy with the Southeast Division playing catchup after the team's hot start.
The loss prevented the Lightning from reclaiming first place, which the Hurricanes took Saturday, and cushion a tenuous four-point edge on the third-place Panthers.
"We had points on the board and we didn't get any. With two minutes left in the game, you can't have that," center Tim Taylor said. "You have to make sure you get at least one point out of it."
Why the Lightning faltered was the subject of debate.
Credit must be given to the Rangers, who surged after the Lightning took its lead. But Roy said Tampa Bay played into New York's hands.
"We were like, 'Yeah, we got the game,' " he said. "I don't know if we were overconfident, but we got caught. And that teaches us a lesson that we have to play 60 minutes no matter what."
"I hope he wasn't overconfident," coach John Tortorella said. "We have no right to be overconfident."
Taylor said that cause and effect were less abstract and that the Lightning neglected a basic lesson.
"When goals are scored, you have to make sure your next shift is the best one," Taylor said. "They tied it up and our next shift wasn't. We were more disappointed that they tied it up. We didn't think they'd score another one. We weren't ready to make sure this game goes into overtime."
"Hopefully, we learned that we have to play right through," left wing Dave Andreychuk said. "We battled hard to get back to the lead, but at that point you keep going. We have to make them beat us. Tonight, we let the game slip away."
It slipped away, in part, because defenseman Cory Sarich fell. That led to an odd-man situation that the Rangers exploited with crisp passing from Petr Nedved, who avoided Vinny Lecavalier's check, to Radek Dvorak, who avoided Nolan Pratt's, to Bure, who beat goalie Nikolai Khabibulin scored after charging through the slot a step ahead of wing Ruslan Fedotenko.
It slipped away because a turnover led to Brian Leetch's shot from the point that Petrovicky snagged with the help of a charitable bounce and despite the presence in front of the net of defensemen Pavel Kubina and Stan Neckar and center Brad Richards, a step late trying to help.
"The puck will find eyes if you're doing all the right things," Rangers coach Bryan Trottier said. "There's a hockey god or something that rewards good smart hustle and effort."
Forgiveness was another matter.
"When we're up 3-2," Roy said, "there's no excuse to give them two goals like that."
"We did a lot to get the two goals back and they did a lot to get their two goals back," Boyle said. "You have to give credit to the offense."
Still, he added, "If we could have those last three minutes back, it would be nice."