Streaking Lightning open back-to-back at Rangers
Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman is known for his prowess defending speedy forwards as they skate over the Lightning blue line, but the reigning Norris Trophy winner can provide some offense, too.
That was evident Monday night as Hedman scored in the fourth round of the shootout, and Tampa Bay extended its winning streak to nine games in a 4-3 home win over the Los Angeles Kings.
The victory pushed the streak to the club's longest of the season and tied the franchise record for consecutive wins. The Lightning, 11-0-2 in February, also scored a point for the 13th straight game, their third-longest stretch ever.
The Lightning (48-11-4), who registered 100 points for the second consecutive season and for the sixth time in team history, will face the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
Equally impressive, the team joined elite company by reaching the century mark in points in just 63 games, one shy of the fastest team ever to do so. The Montreal Canadiens reached 100 points in 62 games in 1976-77, en route to setting the all-time single-season points mark of 132. Montreal's 1977-78 club and the 1971-72 Boston Bruins reached 100 in 63 games.
Hedman played a major role in helping the Lightning enter such lofty company, notching the game-winner on a night when goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and the defense gave up a two-goal lead in the third period to the struggling Kings.
The Swedish blueliner nearly won the match in the 3-on-3 overtime session, firing a shot on Los Angeles goalie Jack Campbell on a 2-on-1 rush, but the backup steered away the shot.
Hedman received a second chance in the shootout after forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov scored, beating Campbell by zipping the puck past him on the glove side for the win.
The Lightning swept the two-game season set and beat Los Angeles for the sixth straight time, and the NHL's top team will try to sweep the three-game season series against the Rangers, too. Wednesday's game will be the first of a back-to-back set, of which Tampa Bay is 7-0-1 in the first half.
"We're a confident group, and we got to keep working on our game and obviously don't get satisfied by winning this many games," said Hedman, who is 4 for 5 in shootout attempts this year. "You still have to win them towards June, and that's our goal."
The Rangers (27-26-9, 63 points) have major lineup adjustments to make after trading Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes -- a major chunk of the club's offense -- plus defenseman Adam McQuaid before Monday's trade deadline.
Zuccarello was traded to the Dallas Stars, Hayes to the Winnipeg Jets and McQuaid to the Columbus Blue Jackets. All three are set to become unrestricted free agents when the season ends.
"I would say we met or hopefully did better than our expectations," said Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said of the trio of trades.
New York also agreed to one-year contracts for forwards Boo Nieves and Steven Fogarty on Monday.
Wednesday's game will be the first without the three traded players, while scrappy Brendan Lemieux, who came over in the Hayes trade with the Jets, could be in the lineup as New York tries to rebound from a tough loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
Despite a two-goal comeback in the third period, the Rangers fell to the Capitals, 6-5, in overtime, dropping them to 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 26, 2019