New York Rangers Tampa Bay Lightning
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If the New York Rangers had any hopes of making a run for the playoffs, they suffered a harsh reality check Thursday night in Tampa Bay.

  • New York Rangers 3 (30-32-6, 66 points)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning 5 (47-17-4, 98 points)
  • NYR Goals: Ryan Spooner (11), Mats Zuccarello (11), Kevin Hayes (19)
  • TB Goals: Cedric Paquette (3), Adam Erne (3), Anthony Cirelli (2), Chris Kunitz (12), Tyler Johnson (19)
  • NHL. Final. Boxscore
  • Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay, Florida.

For the first time since the blockbuster trade, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning faced off with Tampa winning 5-3.

This game is the perfect example of why the Rangers should not be aiming to make the playoffs. Tampa completely controlled the game right from the opening faceoff. The Rangers were never able to recover and would make mistake after mistake throughout the first two periods.

Things got off to a rough start right out of the gate for the Rangers. After a turnover in the neutral zone, Tampa Bay showed why they are the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Henrik Lundqvist was able to make the save, but Cedric Paquette got positioning on Brady Skjei to get the rebound in the back of the net. That wouldn’t be all Lundqvist would have to face in the first as Tampa outshot New York 17-0 at one point in the period.

On Tampa’s second goal, the Rangers actually had a chance to break out of their zone. But, the pass from Ryan Spooner was intercepted leading to this incredible shot from Adam Ernie.

Even though Tampa was up 2-0, Lundqvist was the best player on the ice in the first period. Tampa outshot New York 21-5 in the first period keeping the 36-year-old netminder very busy.

The Rangers survived the first-period thanks to Lundqvist’s play, but that clearly wasn’t going to be enough for the Rangers.

With Rangers now down 3-0 in the second, Spooner continued his hot start as a Rangers, putting New York on the board off the rebound.

But that would be the last time the Rangers seemed to have a chance in this one. Tampa would score two more times in the second after going up 4-1 resulting in Lundqvist being removed from the game for rookie Alexandar Georgiev.

Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes would add two goals for the Rangers in the third breaking a seven-game goal drought.

Chris Kreider left the game for precautionary reasons in the first period. He received a hit to the head and passed his tests, but the Rangers wanted to play it safe and keep him out of the lineup.

New York will next be in action Saturday against the Florida Panthers.

Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.