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Third-period rally begets Lightning win

LIGHTNING 3, RANGERS 2: Goals by Martin St. Louis and Cory Sarich overcome a 2-1 deficit.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published December 8, 2003

NEW YORK - Cory Sarich stood in the hallway outside the Lightning locker room at Madison Square Garden, a bandage over his right eye, an ice pack around his left knee.

Apply that picture to the Tampa Bay team and you get an idea of what it went through Sunday to gouge out a satisfying 3-2 victory against the Rangers.

"Everyone was out there banging and trying to make a difference," the Lightning defenseman said. "It was great to see."

And more notable given the circumstances.

Tampa Bay played its third game in four nights and its second in less than 24 hours. It also was without top offensive defenseman Dan Boyle, who will miss at least a week with a concussion sustained Saturday against the Sabres.

Need more? The Rangers had not played since Thursday. And the game came as part of the Lightning's travel itinerary.

Forced to stay overnight in Buffalo because of the snowstorm in New York, Tampa Bay flew at 10 a.m. Sunday and did not get to the team hotel until after noon.

Five hours later, the Lightning was on the ice and won its second straight game thanks to two third-period goals that wiped out a 2-1 deficit and helped further distance it from a disturbing 0-4-2 stretch.

The six goals in the two victories were the same number the team scored during its winless streak.

"It was impressive," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said.

There was plenty of credit to go around.

Sarich scored the winner, and his first goal of the season, 8:23 into the third period. That came after Martin St. Louis broke a nine-game scoring slump with a breakaway, power-play goal, set up by Vinny Lecavalier's pinpoint pass, at 1:26 to tie the score at 2.

Dave Andreychuk scored his third goal in as many games and 617th of his career. Okay, so the shot from the left wing boards bounced in off the stick of Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch. But it tied the score at 1 with 7:59 left in the first period and gave the team a needed lift.

Goalie John Grahame made 29 saves to break a two-game losing streak. Darren Rumble, playing his second game of the season, helped fill in for Boyle with 10:51 of ice time.

Pavel Kubina played a team-high 24:08. And the line of center Tim Taylor and wings Chris Dingman and Dmitry Afanasenkov played the last 57.9 seconds and kept the Rangers tied up.

That after a five-minute period after Sarich's goal in which the Lightning completely cut off the Rangers in the neutral zone. Tampa Bay was outshot 31-24 overall but had a 10-7 edge in the third period.

"The guys were tremendous," Grahame said. "I don't think I had to make a save on a Grade I opportunity. It tends to make things easier."

"We knew they played (Saturday) night. We should have been fresher than they were," Rangers right wing Alex Kovalev said. "You have to keep it in your mind to play 60 minutes."

New York should have watched the Lightning. Or maybe it should have watched Sarich, who doubled over in pain at the final buzzer after blocking with his knee Anson Carter's shot.

Sarich also fought Dan LaCouture in the second period after the Rangers left wing ran over Rumble, who lost his helmet throwing a big check at Mark Messier.

"He usually hits pretty clean," Sarich said of LaCouture. "But Rumbler didn't have his helmet on, so I came across to see what I could do."

Sarich got an extra two minutes for roughing, but the Lightning killed off the penalty to preserve a 2-1 deficit.

The sequence was as big as fighting off the hard-charging Rangers, who had a 14-6 shot advantage in the first period.

"You get off the bus. You eat. You come here and play the game," Tortorella said.

"But after the first period, we felt we had a good opportunity to compete."

Check out Sarich to see how they did.

[Last modified December 8, 2003, 01:46:15]

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