It’s time to bring back that “Stanley Needs a Tan” slogan from Tampa’s 2004 Cup run. The Lightning is headed back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since it won it all that season.
Friday night the Lightning sent New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to his first Game 7 loss at home in his career in a 2-0 victory at Madison Square Garden. The victory clinched the NHL's Eastern Conference for Tampa.
The Rangers had also never lost in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, going 7-0 before Friday. Lundqvist had won his previous six Game 7s.
In a season where the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy, New York simply couldn’t figure out one more survivalist trick. New York came back from a 3-1 deficit in the second-round against Washington and was down 3-2 in this series before forcing the decisive Game 7.
"We just were basically one period away from going to the Stanley Cup Final," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our guys competed real hard, battled real hard, and this is very disappointing to us, to our fans."
It was Tampa’s speed, defense and goaltending poise that doomed New York. Tampa was a rock, allowing just 21 shots on goal. Netminder Ben Bishop, who had come under fire this series for uneven play made all those stops.
"Yeah, it's nice. Obviously, we all knew his record. You saw it all over the TV, and there wasn't many people picking us, so it's nice," Bishop said. "It kind of gives you a little bit more -- you don't need much
in these games."
Ondrej Palat put the game at 2-0. He and his triplet-mates raced up the ice on a 3-on-2 in the final 10 minutes. Palat fired a shot over the glove of Lundqvist.
At the 1:54 mark of the third period Alex Killorn made an incredible individual effort past Dominic Moore to bachkhand a puck past Lundqvist.
"On that play, it was just a seeing-eye shot. Just put it to the net," Killorn said.
New York still couldn’t get going offensively in the second period, firing just six shots on goal. Meanwhile. Tampa continued a steady barrage on Lundqvist with 10 shots at the New York net.
The first period was super tight with neither team giving up any major scoring chances. Lundqvist had a nice glove-type deflection save.
New York captain Ryan McDonagh was out at points during the first period. He played just one minute that frame. It was later revealed he was playing on a broken foot.
"I've watched this team get pushed against the wall, when you watch this team give up five, and five, and
seven the other night. But they just answer the challenge," Tampa coach Jon Cooper said. "Every time we as a staff go in and challenge them, they respond."
The Stanley Cup Final is set to begin June 3. Tampa's opponent will be either Chicago or Anaheim. They will play one another Saturday in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.
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