Lightning double up early in 2nd to take down Rangers

NEW YORK (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning got a key piece back in their lineup and he proved to be the No. 1 star in a win over the New York Rangers.

No, top forward Steven Stamkos isn’t ready to play yet, but Ben Bishop was on top of his game after a brief absence. Bishop made 33 saves in his return from injury and the Lightning cooled off the Rangers 2-1 on Tuesday night.

"We played solidly, and I felt no rust," Bishop said. "This was big for us coming into this building and playing well. It’s a fun place to play. You have to be excited playing at Madison Square Garden."

Bishop was back in the net for the first time since he sprained his right wrist in the first period at Edmonton on Jan. 5. He missed three games before dressing as the backup to Anders Lindback on Monday at Columbus. He didn’t play in the Lightning’s 3-2 loss.

"He was probably our best player," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "When you’re going on the road and trying to win a hockey game, it all starts with your goaltending. He gave us a chance to win."

Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov supplied all the offense, scoring goals 9 seconds apart early in the second period for Tampa Bay, 5-1-1 in the second half of back-to-back games.

Hedman got the Lightning even with a power-play goal, and Kucherov gave them the lead for good on a breakaway. Tampa Bay went 5-3 in a stretch in which it played seven of eight on the road.

"It’s been tough, and I thought we’ve done a pretty good job," Bishop said.

Brad Richards scored for the Rangers, who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves, but took the loss for New York, which was 8-2-1 in its previous 11.

"I thought we played a really strong game," Lundqvist said. "We created a lot of chances. It was a good hockey game, but we just came up a little short."

The Rangers got their first power play 6:37 into the third period, but Bishop was solid — stopping Mats Zuccarello in close. Bishop is 5-0 with a goals-against average under 1 against the Rangers.

"I like playing against the best," Bishop said. "Henrik is obviously one of the best goalies ever. It’s fun to play against those guys. I don’t think the record means much, but for now it’s pretty nice."

Box score

New York had another advantage in the final 5 minutes but didn’t score. The Rangers had netted a power-play goal in five straight contests.

The game quickly turned early in the second when Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was sent off for high-sticking Bishop in the head — the first penalty for either team — at 29 seconds.

Hedman then fired a slap shot from just inside the blue line that beat Lundqvist at 1:10. Hedman showed no ill-effects after injuring his shoulder in the first period when he was went awkwardly into the boards on a hit by Brian Boyle.

"A lot of players would’ve run Hedman into the ground, and Boyle pulled up and held up," Cooper said. "I’ve got to give Boyle a lot of credit for being a hockey player in the game and not trying to hurt somebody."

Before Hedman’s 10th goal was announced to the crowd, the Lightning had grabbed the lead. After the ensuing faceoff, Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas sent a long pass to Kucherov, who came in alone on Lundqvist and scored his seventh of the season at 1:19.

"We were very excited to play here," Hedman said. "This was a big game for our young guys."

New York threatened to get even several times in the second, and had a few odd-man rushes, but Bishop was sharp and kept them at bay. He made a lunging glove grab of a drive by Callahan with 9:05 left in the period.

"It’s tough," Callahan said. "You don’t always get the calls to go your way. They get one there, and we have a little bit of a lapse and they score another one. We had a lot of chances to get the equalizer … we just didn’t find it."

The Rangers got on the board first. Carl Hagelin sent a shot in on Bishop from the left circle, and the rebound went behind the net. Callahan gathered the puck and sent a pass to Richards, who was standing where Hagelin had been, and snapped a shot that beat Bishop at 11:55 for his 12th goal — tying him for the team lead.

NOTES: Rangers coach Alain Vigneault hinted strongly that backup G Cam Talbot will start one of the games this weekend when New York plays Ottawa and Washington on consecutive days. … Lightning C Nate Thompson sat out because of the flu. RW B.J. Crombeen was a healthy scratch. … Lightning D Matt Carle had a career-high, seven-game point streak snapped. … Tampa Bay is 16-10-4 without Stamkos (broken leg).