The smiles were bright and wide for one teammate’s success, while resentment bubbled to the surface for what was widely viewed as a cheap shot on another.
Brad Richards’ goal 2:37 into overtime gave the Rangers a 4-3 win over the Lightning that was pyrrhic in nature. The Rangers lost Ruslan Fedotenko for the game 3:05 into the third after Dominic Moore shouldered the left wing in the head. Moore, an ex-Ranger, was only assessed a two-minute minor for roughing in one of the myriad failings of referees Gord Dwyer and Brad Watson.
“You don’t like to see your players taken advantage of, or anything like that happen,” said Ryan Callahan, who along with Derek Stepan and Brian Boyle also scored for the Rangers.
“We’re still angry about that. It was a dirty play,” Boyle said of the Moore hit. “He should take a look in the mirror because that was garbage.”
Tortorella did not have an update on Fedotenko’s condition when he
met with the media after the game and he would not
comment on the hit other than to say his players “should be” angry.
An oft-shaky Marty Biron stopped 14 of 17 shots. Steven Stamkos had two points — a goal and an assist — while Vinny Lecavalier and Bruno Gervais each added a goal for the Lightning.
Immediately after potting the game-winner past Mathieu Garon (27 saves), Richards leapt into the glass directly behind the goal on the Seventh Avenue side of the building. When Richards landed, he was tackled by Artem Anisimov as players poured off the bench to mob the alternate captain.
“It’s been a grind the last month-and-a-half,” Richards said. “Things have to get better.”
Dwyer and Watson also missed Brett Clark cross-checking Brandon Dubinsky in the first, but did see Dubinsky’s retaliatory slash. Dwyer and Watson did not penalize Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman for a blatant slashing on Brandon Prust in the second period. Prust spent the remainder of the match hitting Hedman at every available opportunity.
The Rangers began the third period trailing 3-2.
Stamkos scored his NHL-leading 36th goal at 18:56 of the first. He scored on a semi-breakaway after Michael Del Zotto turned the puck over the neutral zone. Anton Stralman attempted to negate the shot by riding Stamkos, but the Tampa center got it off before he fell to the ice.
Callahan and Stepan scored consecutive goals in a span of 1:06 of the second period to put the Rangers up 2-1, but 21 seconds after Stepan’s goal, Lecavalier followed his initial shot to the left of the goal and threw a shot towards the goalmouth that eluded both Biron and a sliding Callahan.
Gervais broke the 2-2 tie with a power play goal at 12:26. As Steve Eminger served a two-minute minor for tripping in his first game since separating his shoulder in the 1-0 win in Phoenix on Dec. 17, Gervais snuck down the slot unseen and one-timed Stamkos’s feed past Biron.
Tampa held the lead until Boyle scored his fifth goal of the season 10:13 into third to tie the game at 3-3. Boyle hammered a shot from the top of the left circle that Garon never saw.
“It’s great to see a guy like ‘Boiler’ get such a big goal. He does so much for us that a lot of guys don’t notice -- blocking shots and how he is in the defensive zone,” Callahan said. “It’s always good to get a guy like that such a big goal.”
The game remained tied until Richards’s first game-winning goal since the Winter Classic.
The Rangers have a five point lead (73-68) over the Bruins for first in the Eastern Conference playoff race heading into a stretch of four games in seven days, starting with a match in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon and a game in Boston Tuesday.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.