Moore Lifts Blueshirts Over Defending Champs
On the depth chart, 25-year-old rookie Dominic Moore is listed as a fourth center. Try telling that to the defending Cup champion Lightning (7-8-2), who were victimized by two Moore third period goals in a 5-2 defeat at St. Pete Times Forum Thursday night.
Moore- a night earlier banked in a shot off Roberto Luongo to rally the Rangers past the Panthers. This time, the crafty Harvard product did his damage in more conventional fashion. A few minutes after Jason Ward put New York ahead 2-1 in the third period on a rebound of a Blair Betts shot, Moore struck on the power play when he redirected a Tom Poti point shot past John Grahame to make it 3-1 with 12:42 left. Poti and Steve Rucchin added helpers.
However, the Lightning got right back into the game less than four minutes later when Dan Boyle one-timed home a Brad Richards feed for a power play tally. Richards and Kubina assisted.
With Tampa Bay pressing for the tie, that's when Moore took advantage of a mistake by Lightning rookie Evgeny Artyukhin. Earlier in the shift, with Boyle trying to keep the puck in the Ranger zone, Petr Prucha was leveled by the defenseman against the boards but still managed to get the puck out. It led directly to Moore's second goal of the period, which sealed the Rangers' second straight win.
With Artyukhin mishandling a Nolan Pratt pass at his blueline, Moore pounced on it and broke in on Grahame, beating him with a nifty backhand for his sixth of the season to make it 4-2 with 4:12 remaining.
Marcel Hossa added an empty netter late to put an exclamation point on the victory. In their history, the Rangers had only swept a back-to-back on a Florida trip three times in the previous 14 tries. They're now four-for-fifteen.
The first period was a tactical battle between two teams who didn't give up much (shots were 5-5). But after failing on a power play, the Rangers capitalized on a Tampa change to take the lead. With first-year netminder Henrik Lundqvist noticing that Tampa was changing, he fired a two-line pass up the left boards to Hossa, who sprung Ville Nieminen for a breakaway. In on Grahame, Nieminen beat him short side for his first goal in 10 games since October 15 against Atlanta. Hossa and Lundqvist picked up assists. It was Lundqvist's first career NHL point.
Prucha had a glorious chance to increase the margin to two but was robbed by Grahame. Taking a Marek Malik pass, Prucha came in on Grahame and deked to the forehand but a sprawling Grahame stretched out his glove just in the nick of time to keep it 1-0 after one.
The Lightning raised their level in the second to knot the game up. After a Jagr setup for Michael Nylander failed when Nylander hit the post, Vincent Lecavalier came the other way and wristed a shot from the right wing past Lundqvist at 5:13. Originally credited with the goal, it was later changed to Martin St. Louis, who got his stick on it for his fifth of the season. Lecavalier and Vinny Prospal notched assists.
Held without a shot for the first half of the stanza, the Rangers blew a five-on-three opportunity late in the second to keep the game tied heading to the third.
In his first start in the second half of a back-to-back, Lundqvist stopped 23 of 25 shots. Grahame finished with 15 saves.
Notes: Tampa Bay has lost five in a row, which is their longest losing streak since dropping six straight from March 24-April 3, 2002. ... Rangers have won four of their first five in November and are five games over .500 for the first time since December 31, 2001. ... Rangers (10-5-3) travel to Pittsburgh (5-7-5) Saturday night (7:30 PM).