NEW YORK (AP) Brayden Point celebrated his 21st birthday in style at Madison Square Garden.
Point scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with 6:39 remaining to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning over the New York Rangers 3-2 on Monday night.
”I played (on my birthday) in juniors a couple of times, but nothing even close to this,” Point said. ”It was awesome. I am happy I was able to produce offensively. A couple of great passes that I was able to put in. It’s just a great feeling for me right now.”
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Peter Budaj made 26 saves for his first win since Tampa Bay acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings in a trade for fellow goalie Ben Bishop. Gabriel Dumont also scored and Nikita Kucherov had two assists for the Lightning, who extended their winning streak to three games. They have picked up at least one point in eight of their last nine on the road.
At 13:21 of the third period, Ondrej Palat delivered a tape-to-tape pass that Point redirected past Rangers goalie Antti Raanta to break a 2-all tie and help the Lightning inch closer to playoff position. Tampa Bay is tied with the New York Islanders, one point behind Toronto for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
”We just have to take it one game at a time,” Budaj said. ”We have a good, strong, young team. We have a lot of guys hurt, but guys are stepping up. Guys are doing what they are supposed to be doing with other guys hurt. If you think too far ahead it can only hurt you.”
With teammate Tyler Johnson sidelined, Point moved up the depth chart and played on Tampa Bay’s top line next to Palat and Kucherov.
”I truly believe when you have a commitment and a work ethic, that’s the first thing you notice in a player. Everything else will fall into place,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ”And that’s what that kid (Point) has. . You’ve got to have a will and he does.”
Steven Kampfer and Michael Grabner had the goals for the Rangers, who won 4-1 on Sunday night in Detroit. They still hold a comfortable lead for the first wild card in the East.
New York started strong, outshooting the Lightning 13-3 in the opening period, and took a 1-0 lead when Kampfer fired a rocket from the left point. After Budaj denied Derek Stepan from in close, the Rangers won the ensuing faceoff. Mats Zuccarello slid the puck across to Kampfer, who scored his 10th NHL goal and first as a member of the Rangers.
”We played the right way in the first period,” New York coach Alain Vigneault said. ”We advanced pucks, we got pucks in their end and we had good possession time and some good opportunities, which we didn’t do in the second and the third. We barely had any looks, any possession time.”
The Lightning bounced back despite being heavily outshot. Tampa Bay scored its league-leading 53rd goal on the power play when Kucherov fed Point at 7:43 of the first.
Dumont redirected Jason Garrison’s shot past Raanta to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead at 5:04 of the second. It was Dumont’s third career goal, and second this season.
Raanta made 13 saves and fell to 14-7-0 as the Rangers lost for only the third time this season in the second half of a back-to-back.
New York tied it 2-all when Grabner scored his team-leading 27th goal at 10:22 of the second. Grabner returned to action Sunday after being sidelined for five games with an injury sustained during practice.
Vladislav Namestnikov returned to action for Tampa Bay after missing the previous game with a lower-body injury but did not play in the third period.
”The injury he had before, he kind of re-aggravated it,” Cooper said.
NOTES: Budaj made his second appearance with the Lightning and improved to 28-21-3 overall this season. … Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist missed his third consecutive game with a hip strain and is expected to remain out of the lineup for two to three weeks. … Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi missed his eighth consecutive game with an ankle injury. The alternate captain is expected to resume skating on Tuesday. … New York D Kevin Klein was sidelined for the 11th straight game with back spasms. … New York scratched defenseman Adam Clendening, forward Matt Puempel and forward Brandon Pirri. … Johnson and fellow Lightning forward Cedric Paquette each missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. Tampa Bay scratched D Luke Witkowski.