TAMPA - Comebacks just don't happen against the King and his court.
But on Friday night, the Lightning stormed their way past goaltender "King" Henrik Lundqvist and the stingy New York Rangers with a 4-3 overtime victory in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204.
Teddy Purcell led the charge with a goal and two assists, and Steven Stamkos scored his 45th goal of the season — matching last season's total — and added an assist. Tampa Bay is within four points of a playoff spot with 18 games remaining and two games in hand on No.8 seed Winnipeg, as well as six points behind division-leading Florida.
Ryan Malone's goal with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left in the extra period lifted the Lightning to an improbable victory after they fell behind by two goals against a team that rarely relinquishes leads. The Rangers entered Friday with a 29-1-2 record when scoring first and 26-0-2 when leading after two periods.
"Our players have really developed this mental toughness to fight through, and that was only two goals," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "That's how we feel — it's only two goals."
It has been that sort of never-say-quit attitude that had allowed Tampa Bay to hang around the playoff perimeter and stay in the hunt.
Against the league's stingiest team — a league-low 130 goals allowed coming in — and perhaps the runaway winner of the Vezina Trophy this season in Lundqvist, who had allowed two or fewer goals in 12 consecutive starts, the Lightning kept pushing forward.
"We tried to battle, but they kept coming," said Lundqvist, who allowed four or more goals in a game for only the fourth time this season in 47 games and the first time since Jan.17.
Marian Gaborik's goal during a 5-on-3 power play gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead early in the second despite Tampa Bay outshooting New York 15-6 at the time. But Tom Pyatt whacked in a rebound off a Brett Connolly deflection at 7:09 to make it 2-1 after two periods.
Purcell then took a Marty St. Louis feed at the side of the net to tie the game at 3:37 of the third.
Stamkos gave Tampa Bay the lead with a wrist shot from the slot at 10:17. However, Brandon Dubinsky beat Mathieu Garon with a shot to the far post with 3:27 left in regulation to force overtime.
"We've evolved. The players that are here have developed from the beginning of the year until now," Boucher said. "Some say that we've woken up, we haven't woken up, we've gotten better. ... We are getting rewarded for not quitting, paying the price and not getting discouraged when it was tough.
"It's a joy to fight. The shame is never in losing, it's not fighting, and right now there is no shame. The fight is extremely high and we want to keep that level."
Tampa Bay Lightning