Tampa Triumphs in Emotional Night at MSG

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30: J.T. Miller #10,Ryan McDonagh #27 and Dan Girardi #5 of the Tampa Bay Lightning stand for the national anthem before the game against the New York Rangers on March 30, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.This is the first game back to Madison Square Garden for the trio since being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

On Friday night the Blueshirts hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning in what was an emotional evening. Not only was it the Rangers’ final home game of their disappointing season, but it also marked the return to Madison Square Garden of Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, and J.T. Miller, all of whom had never suited up in anything other than Ranger blue prior to this season. Additionally, the action was preceded by the presentation of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort award. In the end, the Bolts triumphed, but last night’s contest was about more than the hockey game.

The ceremonies began with the announcement of this year’s winner of the Steven McDonald Extra Effort award. After a touching speech from Mcdonald’s son, Connor, he announced that this year’s recipient is Henrik Lundqvist, as he received the most votes from Rangerstown. The King is more than deserving of this honor, as he has been the heart and soul of the Blueshirts since he arrived back in 2005, which was the last time he won the award. This ritual has become even more special since Steven McDonald’s passing a year ago, and the fact this was the 30th anniversary of the Broadway tradition.

Following the award celebration, a tear-jerking tribute video to McDonagh, Miller, and Girardi was shown. It was a heartwarming yet sad salute to the former Rangers, as it truly signified the end of the New York’s magical six-year run from 2011-2017 where they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs every year.

Ending in a 7-3 Bolts victory, the actual game was far less exciting. Late in the first frame, Brady Skjei opened the scoring, but Tampa Bay then rattled off five unanswered goals. The Bolts tallied twice in the first five minutes of the middle period, with the goals coming from Cedric Paquette and Alex Killorn.

After 40 minutes Tampa Bay only led by one, but the Lightning scored three times in the first 2:38 of the final frame. The second and third scores came from Cedric Paquette and Brayden Point, with the period’s first tally courtesy of ex-Ranger J.T. Miller, who now has 16 points in 15 games for the Bolts, and a total of 56 on the season which is more than any Blueshirt.

Per usual, Alain Vigneault’s team began an inspiring comeback that would ultimately fall short, as New York shrunk the deficit to two. Chris Kreider found the back of the net for the 16th time this season with just over three minutes remaining, but about eight minutes earlier, the 21st overall pick of the 2017 draft, Filip Chytil, netted his first NHL marker. The Czech forward became the fourth-youngest player (18 years, 206 days old) to tally his first goal for the Rangers.

With Ondrej Pavelec out of his net and the Blueshirts going for broke with the extra attacker, Brayden Point added an empty-netter for his second goal of the night, but Tampa wasn’t done yet. Recording the garden’s final goal of the 2017-2018 campaign, was none other than long-time Blueshirt and fan-favorite: Dan Girardi.

The night concluded with the annual Blueshirts off our backs festivities. The Boys in Blue skated around tossing sticks, shirts, and other goodies to the crowd. Furthermore, the players were each paired with a fan, who was given that player’s jersey.

The Rangers will finish off the season with their final 4 games coming on the road. They will look to snap their three-game skid on Saturday night when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes (7:00 PM, MSG2).

Brian Paget is on Twitter @BrianPaget17

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