Rangers and Lightning tie as Eastern Conference Finals move to New York

Other than “managing a three-game lead and none,” perhaps there is no more overused phrase in playoff hockey than “key game 5.”

After all, every game in the postseason, especially when teams reach the Eastern Conference Finals like the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, is critical.

That was certainly true on Tuesday when the Rangers and Lightning played Game 4 in Tampa, Florida. The Rangers, who are two games to one, needed a win to get home for a shot at a Stanley Cup Finals berth against the Colorado Avalanche, who beat the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, and avoid another grueling seven-game game. games. the same series as against the Penguins in the first round and the Hurricanes in the conference semi-finals.

The Lightning wanted to develop their Game 3, take the win and continue on their way to a third straight Stanley Cup title. Their deep playoff experience ultimately made the difference, as the Lightning thrashed the Rangers 4-1 to send the teams back to New York for Game 5 on Thursday with a series tie.

If you order a Stanley Cup Challenger from the Hockey Team Factory, the Lightning will be at your doorstep. The team is made up of confident and experienced stars such as Steven Stamkos, their captain; Nikita Kucherov; and Ondrej Palat, who played together since the 2013-14 season and helped the Lightning defeat the rangers in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals.

After losing to the Rangers in the first two games of the series in New York, the Lightning played with their usual speed and discipline. They were quicker to the puck, picked up rebounds and pushed the Rangers, which allowed them to spend a significant part of the game in the attacking zone.

“Those weren’t our best games, games 1 and 2,” Lightning defenseman Zach Bogosian said after the game. “Toward the end of Game 2, we started to come back to our identity a bit, and we showed that in the last two games at home. Now it’s time to hit the road and get to work.”

It looks like the Rangers got lucky, dropping just one goal off the ice after the first period and losing two goals after the second period.

“We’re going back to our speed game and looking for ways to get the puck behind them,” Tampa Bay forward. Patrick Maroon said after the game.

In some ways, the Rangers are not much different from the Lightning team that beat them in 2015. They started the season as the third-youngest roster in the NHL and played with verve for most of the year. They beat the more experienced Pittsburgh Penguinsthen dropped Carolina Hurricaneswho won the Capital Division over the Rangers.

As the Rangers realized after their two losses in Tampa, the Lightning are head and shoulders above them. They shut out the Rangers’ best players, including their top scorer Chris Kreider and their top passer Artemy Panarin. They converted just a handful of penalties and kept the power-playing Rangers group out of the ice for the first two periods of Game 4. Their goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy regained the confidence that had eluded him in the first two games.

“There’s a lot of experience in this room,” Stamkos said after the game. “That’s what we rely on.”

The Lightning took the lead less than three minutes into Game 4 when Bogosian’s shot was blocked by Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin, but Bordovy rushed into play uncontrollably and busted the puck over Shesterkin’s pads into the net. It was Maroon’s third playoff goal and an ominous sign for the Rangers, who lost to the Lightning’s fourth-string line, who played like it was a powerplay.

Shortly after, the Rangers faced another test when their enforcer, Ryan Reeves, was called on the bandwagon. Shesterkin kept the Rangers in the game by choking the puck with his outstretched leg.

However, Shesterkin was not a problem for the Rangers. In the second period, the Rangers revived for a while, but they had nothing to show, having spent a huge amount of energy.

Then Palat, who scored the winning goal in game 3 with less than a minute left, he turned around in the neutral zone and passed to his linemate Kucherov, who was waiting alone at the blue line. Kucherov broke free and fired the puck between Shesterkin’s pads to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.

It was Kucherov’s seventh playoff goal and his third straight season with at least 20 playoff points, the first time since Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov of the Red Wings had done so in four consecutive seasons from 1995 to 1998.

The Rangers finally scored with 3:33 left in the game, ending a drought that lasted until the middle of Game 3, when Panarin picked up a loose puck and shot wide of Vasilevskiy. It was the Rangers’ 17th powerplay goal in the playoffs, which only helped to underline how poorly the Rangers played evenly.

The Rangers, of course, were not finished. They still have the home-ice advantage and are 8-1 up in the playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Their only home loss in the playoffs came in the first game of the first round when they lost to the Penguins in triple overtime.

The Rangers also played their best hockey by sitting with their backs to the wall during the playoffs. They closed a three-game-to-one lead in the first round, swept the Penguins and eliminated the Hurricanes to win Game 7 on the road.

“They play differently and have very good speed,” Lightning center Anthony Cirelli said after the game. “You just have to be on them. You have to know when they are on the ice, where they are, and limit them.”

Whether the Rangers will be in full force is the question. Ryan Strome was out of Game 4 due to an injury sustained on Sunday. And centre-forward Philip Chitil, a third of the “baby line” that includes Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko, who are all 22 or under, left the game in Game 4 after taking a hit along the wall.

Whether Strom and Chitil are playing or both, the Lightning will aim to be the first team in this series to win on the road.

“At some point, if we want to win the series, we’ll have to win on the road,” Stamkos said.